Birthday!

What if they gave a war and no one came?

Today is my birthday! I am 25,934 days old. For those of you who struggle with higher math, that makes me 71.

I woke up this morning and rushed to open my email, anxious to see what birthday greetings I might have received. There was an e-card from my dentist, and BMW had even sent me a gift! It was a new ringtone, “made entirely from the iconic sounds of a BMW”! Right away, I knew this would be a great day, as I imagined all the congratulatory phone calls coming in, each one making my phone sound like the time I dropped a muffler on the freeway.

But I was disappointed to receive nothing from my insurance broker, whose e-cards usually feature a nice portrait of several people I have never met. It was still early, though: maybe I’d get something later in the day.

Since I quit Facebook earlier this year, I knew that people wouldn’t be able to overlook my birthday the way they had in the past. Now, they would have to ignore me by email or text. I had been concerned that this might confuse some of my acquaintances and was relieved to see that most of them seemed to have managed the transition quite seamlessly.

But, how to spend this very special day? Checking the weather,  I found that the air quality had improved all the way to “unhealthy”, with smoke from the fires still burning up north, the whole forest a giant birthday candle, just for me. I put on my jogging shoes and went for a walk around the living room.

I decided to smoke some birthday weed. After all, if you can’t stay stoned all day on your birthday, when can you? Just this week, I had bought the ideal cannabis strain for the occasion, something called Smarties. According to one online reviewer, “Smarties’s buzz is perfect for daytime use and presents as a calm and mellow euphoria backlit by hints of full-scale relaxation.” It was already mid-morning and it felt like euphoria was overdue, so I lit up. Or backlit up, I’m not sure.

After that, it was time for party games! I played Sudoku for an hour and won every game! Birthday luck, I’m sure, ’cause I’m not really all that good at Sudoku. Then, I moved on to Solitaire, but I got bogged down during the third game and had to give up. Still, I had won more games than anyone, so I considered myself to be the winner of the party.

Maxine Hong Kingston says the winners of the party are the ones who stay ’til the end and who get to talk about everyone else. I was the last one at my birthday party, but I found I had nothing to say.

Good Causes

Too many calls to action have left me exhausted.

One thing for which we can thank the internet is that the world now seems to be enjoying a surfeit of good causes, causes that vie for my attention, try to get me to join or support them in some way. It seems like a constant stream of recruitment messages finds me through email, social media and the web. They cajole me to sign a petition, share a polemic, join someone in their moral anguish. Like a conscript in an endless war, I am to be marshaled from front to front in the ongoing struggle of some cause against another.

Here is a list of causes that have asked that I rise to the ramparts this summer:

GMO labeling
Elephants
Gun rights
Israel
Freedom
Women
Clean water
Transgender people (gay people are passé)
Bees
Climate
Autism
Local farms
Gun control
Bans on drilling, fracking, and shipping petroleum
Black lives
Religious freedom
The Confederate flag
Abortions
The right of Nicholas Constantine Soukeras to name his first-born son Spyridon (really)
Assisted suicide
Free speech
The suppression of Michael Vick, Kanye West, and Planned Parenthood
Two women in India
The extradition of an extractor of teeth (say it 3 times, fast)

This is just a partial list, and of course it doesn’t include the door knockers selling raffle tickets, Jesus, and frozen New York steaks. And what happens when election season rolls around? You can add robo-calls to the mix. And the media, already full of offended women and bald patriots, will blare further entreaties. A nationwide Iron Mary of exhortation.

Listen, people, it’s too much. Everyone is pushing something. And it’s all noble and tax-deductible, of course, and everyone seems properly righteous when they make the case that they’ll improve society. But then it turns out they disagree with one another and you have to decide. The only thing they agree upon is that it’s important, and urgent, that you take their side. Too many decisions. Too much responsibility.

Do we really want to live like this? Must we all be Don Quixote? Walden Pond, anyone? I have to admit that hermitry attracts me in this environment, but it means I’d have to give up my cell phone. Alternatively, I could try to improve society myself with a crusade to limit causes, but I have no idea how to go about it. I imagine there’s a tax deduction in there, though.

The Metaphysics of Facebook

Informational Satori is upon us. We can all leave, now.

Dried flowers on the beach

Some people post stuff eighty times a day on Facebook, you get buried under their pictures of babies and food, their petitions and political outrage. Some people hardly ever post: once a year, someone tags them at a barbecue. I suppose I fall somewhere in between. Mostly I keep stuff to myself, because I figure no one gives a shit anyway. But every once in a while, I am motivated to share something or other that resonates within my particular universe.

These posts occasionally provoke a few comments, but sometimes they do not. My universe resonates differently from every one else’s. Perhaps someone is lurking, reading with indifference or even disdain, insufficiently moved even to Like. Or maybe there’s no one there at all.

The internet encourages us to surround ourselves with spheres of interest which become more narrow and exclusive with time. And as we age, as our friends dwindle and die, those that remain go their own ways into their own spheres. Perhaps there is no longer any overlap. At first, I despaired at this thought.

I asked myself, if I post something on Facebook and no one reads it, did it really happen? Or is it, like the tree falling in the forest, some sort of Schroedinger conundrum into which my life has fallen. I can look and verify that the post is there, of course, but maybe that’s part of the same hallucination. And if you were to look, you would play the role of the cat, reducing possibilities.

But then I realized that this open-ended flow is, in fact, a sort of informational satori: information for its own sake. The info-verse swirls around me, and I seek silent illumination, no longer burdened by the need to actually interact with others. As more and more of my posts elicit no response, I approach digital Nirvana.

People — Friends — are no longer necessary. We live in a world where I can post a message that no one will read while, at the same time, a marketer’s robot caller is leaving a message on my answering machine that no one will listen to. The informational loops exist without us, and will continue to exist long after we are gone.