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But what if the brain doesn’t want to return?

You know that post-illness brain-death phenomenon, I’m sure. Your body’s recovering from affliction, but whatever intellect or sense of “self in the real world” you previously possessed has abandoned you.

You go outside and nature looks oddly unfamiliar. You read (or write) and words on the screen unravel like something from the imagination of a dyslexic five-year-old. You apologize for your conversational failings or try to carry off a dialog, simply hoping no one notices you don’t possess your standard quotient of wit or common sense.

Eventually you fake it ’til you make it. Meantime, you hope you don’t trigger a major accident, international diplomatic incident, or four-letter-word-in-church level of embarrassment to yourself or anyone else.

Or at least I do such things. And more.

After a few days or a week, the brain returns to the skull and you I soon forget it was ever missing.

—–

But what happens when the world you’re attempting to return to … makes not one damn bit of sense? Then what?

To wit: This morning while news cruising, I ran across a New York magazine article headlined “Who Was Lil Tay?” Assuming this would be a lurid true-crime story about some murdered rapper and the rival “talent” what done him in, I clicked. Only to discover that Lil Tay (very much alive, mind you) was a nine-year-old girl who was famous for two months last year. And the only reason to regard her in the past tense is that she isn’t as famous now.

I made it halfway though the article without ever figuring out what this child was actually renowned for. Then I fled. But I returned later, read the entire article … and still have no idea.

She was a “brand.” That’s all I know. On the Internet, of course. Was until her divorced father stepped in and somehow interfered with her completely causeless, but aggressively sought and promoted, celebrity.

Did she have any unusual abilities? Could she sing, dance, recite pi to the 10,000th digit, juggle chain saws or Barbie dolls? Could she act, walk a tightrope, or compose sonatas on the zither? If so, her talent was never mentioned. Apparently she mostly waved large sums of cash and talked about how rich she was.

Then I went to Business Insider hoping for some, you know, business news. And ran smack into an article about a young “Instagram influencer” named Caroline Calloway who appears to be famous for typing about dating and breakups and such. She is now making money off “creativity workshops” that appear to be about as deeply creative as the free “scrapbooking for teens” sessions offered at our local small-town library, complete with shiny stickers.

And is it just me, or are the New York Times, The Atlantic, Esquire and other previously content-filled publications now featuring increasing numbers of “articles” (which aren’t really articles) in which third-rate writers and tenth-rate thinkers go on freakin’ endlessly about their Profound Personal Tragedies of social anxiety, inflammatory bowel disease, inability to thrive in the working world, food allergies, uncaring boyfriends, addictions, sibling rivalries, panic attacks, personality disorders, conflicts with Mom, and their desperate inability to recover from their unthinkable grief following their 93-year-old grandfather’s entirely expected death?*

Formerly respectable, first-rate publications are actually paying narcissists to whine for 2,500 to 5,000 words about the daily problems that afflict humanity (but afflict NYT writers more profitably and dramatically than others)?

Isn’t this the sort of personal maundering that used to appear (in lesser quantities and with less gory detail) in magazines for teenage girls?**

Isn’t there anything else going on in the world?

But of course there is, and to learn about the real problems all you have to do is tune in to NPR for 30 seconds. Then you know that the dire troubles of the world extend beyond living with bipolar disorder or surviving on the autism spectrum. The real problems of the world are: migrants (abused and suffering), guns (causing abuse and suffering), social justice, racial identity, poverty, feminism, Donald Trump, and anybody else to the right of Nancy Pelosi.

Thirty seconds once or twice a week is all it’ll take, thank heaven.

—–

But what about when you’re trying to coax your brain back into your skull after two weeks in the fog of illness?

What if you’re trying to recover your faculties and those faculties — feeble, fragile, and estranged — are expected to cope with inexplicably famous has-been moppets, do-nothing Instagram “influencers,” and some self-absorbed (but better paid than me) scribbler’s descriptions of (I kid you not) the lifelong poop paralysis she caused for herself after spending years gobbling laxatives in the service of bulimic attempts to become one of the popular girls in the exclusive private boarding school her wealthy (but of course overly demanding and emotionally withholding) parents sent her to?

I take my brain out into the woods or into a book, and that helps. But sooner or later (sooner in these tiring days), my brain and I return to the Internet.

And increasingly … my brain rebels. It would rather stay out there, wherever it’s currently hiding, than ever visit the insanely self-absorbed, narrow-minded, and utterly irrational realm of the ‘Net ever again.

—–

* Yes, I’ve been known to whine occasionally, myself. Someone might note I’m whining even as we speak. But a) it’s my blog; b) my only pay is your charity; and c) you’d dump me in a hot minute if I bored you.

** And mind you, I’m not saying such self-focused confessionals have no place in the world. There’s plenty of place for them: on personal blogs; in self-help publications; in publications focusing on psychology, relationships, health, or personal growth; and no doubt on Instagram. I’m just asking how “self help” moved onto pages that once featured in-depth coverage of the big issues of the day, while also turning into a competition for who could produce the biggest, longest, most excruciatingly detailed “poor me” screed.

11 Comments

  1. ~Qjay
    ~Qjay January 24, 2019 1:53 pm

    Good to see you awake again, Claire!
    I gave up on NYT a few months ago, the occasional half decent piece isn’t worth all the drivel and whining.
    The Atlantic is better, but still has a fair amount of trash. At least Bus Insider is often reasonable. Spend some time surfing Cracked, you’ll feel better, even if there’s nothing useful.

    Feel better soon! This existential influenza is not going to do you any good.

  2. Comrade X
    Comrade X January 24, 2019 2:08 pm

    I’s totally had it with the media so I canceled Dish this week, I will not support the media with another penny. All my information/whatever will from now on comes thru the internet, where I chose and pay for if required. Hopefully my better half can still get HDTV that way or I’s has a feeling I’s going to hear about it!

    Screw the media and the horse they rode in on (well no offense to the horse really)!

  3. Pat
    Pat January 24, 2019 2:11 pm

    Just the way I feel, Claire. I’ve tried a few times to find something substantial in the news, but… where is it?

    “You go outside and nature looks oddly unfamiliar. You read (or write) and words on the screen unravel like something from the imagination of a dyslexic five-year-old. You apologize for your conversational failings or try to carry off a dialog, simply hoping no one notices you don’t possess your standard quotient of wit or common sense.
    Eventually you fake it ’til you make it. Meantime, you hope you don’t trigger a major accident, international diplomatic incident, or four-letter-word-in-church level of embarrassment to yourself or anyone else.”

    Boy, have you described that “post-illness syndrome” (PIS) correctly! You’ve truly “lost your mind” for awhile, and are not sure you want it back.

    “And increasingly … my brain rebels. It would rather stay out there, wherever it’s currently hiding, than ever visit the insanely self-absorbed, narrow-minded, and utterly irrational realm of the ‘Net ever again.”

    But I’m glad you are feeling better now.

  4. Fred M.
    Fred M. January 24, 2019 2:41 pm

    Interesting! As a result of your illness your mind, which was always spinning on the internet, came to a screeching halt and re-calibrated itself. You now no longer look at things the same way, nor do the same things that once interested you seem so interesting. This is probably a good thing and worthy of thanks. Embrace the new mind and go with the flow. Glad you and your pup are alive and kicking! Now go for a walks in the woods. 😎

  5. jc2k
    jc2k January 24, 2019 5:20 pm

    Ahhhh, yes. That particular corner of the news known as ‘Youtube Drama’. There are so many screaming idiots on the internet these days (some of them making millions in the process). The WSJ did a whole series about a guy that made some jokes about nazis.

    And here’s one I can’t stop watching https://i.imgur.com/hqd008F.gifv

  6. larryarnold
    larryarnold January 24, 2019 6:46 pm

    Your brain is fine.

    There are videos on YouTube showing people popping blackheads and pimples. Scads of videos. There are channels you can subscribe to so you won’t miss the “best” ones.

    The answer is simple. Men in Black was a documentary.

  7. Joel
    Joel January 25, 2019 7:33 am

    Or Idiocracy. Whichever. 🙂

  8. Jolly
    Jolly January 25, 2019 8:21 am

    I used to follow current news pretty closely and had an opinion about everything. But, in literally just the last six months or so, I’ve started playing the classical music station rather than anything else. No words ( at least in English ), just music. Fatigue, I guess. I don’t have enough energy to remain scared or angry any more.

  9. coloradohermit
    coloradohermit January 25, 2019 2:38 pm

    I’m glad you’re feeling better! It might not be your brain that’s off track, but all the idiocy out there not worth focusing on.

  10. maDDtraPPer
    maDDtraPPer January 25, 2019 3:57 pm

    According to the doomsday clock we are closer to self destruction than ever before. Most of those idiots wouldn’t even know what that is. It is very disheartening looking around at the state of the world. I sometimes wish the rock from space would come a lot sooner than later to be honest.

  11. Me
    Me January 27, 2019 5:43 pm

    Prophetic Twilight Zone episode on plastic surgery.

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