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.