This list speaks for itself.
- I cannot sleep, so I go online. I see an article entitled, “World’s Funniest Kittens” with a photo of a kitten parachuting above a pool of splashing puppies. I really want to read this story, so I click on the START button next to the photo. But the START button opens to an ad for cheap car insurance. I back out of the ad and find the actual start button buried in a cluster of flashing graphics. After clicking through 236 photos of kittens doing cute but not-so-funny things, I still have not seen the parachuting kitten. I’ve been had. On the bright side, however, for each of the 236 times I clicked, someone has gotten paid (even though that someone is not me).
- I click on an article about organic apples. In the middle of the story is a link to organic apple orchards. I click it. It is not about apple orchards. It’s about glacial instability and the certain annihilation of my descendants and, indeed, the entire planet if we do not get our act together. I close that screen and return to my organic apples, but now the mood has passed, and I’m no longer interested. I move my cursor to the small x in the top right corner to close the page, and just as I click, a link appears on top of the x. So instead of closing the article, I’ve opened a new article on increasing my sex drive and stamina with organic prunes. Failure to purchase these amazing prunes will lead to the certain annihilation of my descendants and, indeed, the entire planet. I close the browser.
- I open a different browser and check my e-mail. I’ve read the first 3 emails and click on number 4. Turns out, number 4 is not an email at all but an ad designed to look like an email. Having clicked it, I discover that I am moments from losing my big toe to a flesh-eating fungus that is lurking under my toenails. I pull the covers back and examine my toes. I do have that one toenail that looks kinda iffy. Nah, I’m sure it’s fine.
- I close my email and turn on the news. A sinkhole has opened up somewhere on the planet and swallowed half a city block. Without any effort at all, I imagine myself in a high-rise apartment on that same city block riding the building into the earth as it collapses. I do this over and over, imagining what it must’ve been like for those who actually were swallowed up in the sinkhole. I wonder about the babies and children, if they died instantly or if they’re still buried beneath the rubble, gasping and choking on dirt and gravel. At the bottom of the screen, is a scrolling ticker tape alerting me to the latest news on Wall Street, the NASDAQ and NYSE, falling oil prices, and global warming. At the top of the screen is the coronavirus leaderboard.
- I turn off the news and log onto Facebook. One of my friends has shared a photo and story about a man who intentionally coughs in an elevator full of people. We are admonished to pursue vigilante justice against this “piece of shit” should we run across him in the streets. There is no evidence of who this person is or what, if anything, he has done. Yet the story has been shared 4,837,870 times. I think of how easy it is to copy a photo from anyone’s social media page, write a scathing story, make it look official, and circulate it on social media. It will go viral, no questions asked. Humans. It’s all pitchforks and torches with us, I swear to Zeus!
- Another friend has posted: I tried to tell y’all that God was going to unleash punishment on this wicked generation, but nobody wanted to listen. I bet Rona got y’all listening now! In her previous post, she is thanking God for the construction of a Krispy Kreme less than a mile from her house. #FavorAintFair #WontHeDoIt
- As I scroll down my timeline, I realize that the nail fungus medicine has followed me. I know that it will continue to follow me on every site I visit from now through eternity, but still I click the button to “Hide This Ad.” Facebook wants to know why I’m hiding the ad and offers up 4 or 5 reasons from which to choose. “Fuck Off!” is not one of them.
- I close my laptop and try to meditate, but I can’t because there is dirt and gravel in my throat from the sinkhole and… what if that white spot on my toenail really is a flesh-eating fungus?
- I turn to one of the many books on my nightstand, Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic. I pick up at the bookmarked page: “All I know for certain is that this is how I want to spend my life – collaborating to the best of my ability with forces of inspiration that I can neither see, nor prove, nor command, nor understand. It’s a strange line of work, admittedly. I cannot think of a better way to pass my days” (78).
And just like that, I have found the cure to my listlessness, my own inspiration welling up in me like a tonic. I read into the night, and the healing silence is broken only by the turning of pages and the sporadic calling of a barred owl back in the woods. Books have never failed me, and during this time of extraordinary change, I’m glad I’ve remembered that.
Gilbert, Elizabeth. Big Magic: Creative Living beyond Fear. Riverhead Books an Imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, 2016.