Dear Diary: May 6, 2020. I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve been going through something. As the Indigo Girls so rightly sing, “Darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable. Lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.”
It’s a stressful time and we’re all trying to handle it as best we can, but I find all sorts of problematic things happening. My moods seem to come in waves, with minor “up” times and long-lasting “down” times. On the bright side, I have gotten back into a regular exercise routine because I’ve been feeling better for the last month or so, as far as physical health goes. The treatment they put me on seems to be working; something for which to be grateful! But it’s clear that I’ve been missing my students (in person) and that totally online teaching is not for me. As of today, I’m also scheduled for an online schedule in Summer and in Fall 2020. Better safe than sorry, but I’m going to be completely redesigning my classes so I can at least get virtual face-time with my students.
I’m also tired of social media. I keep saying that, I know. But for all its perks and possibilities, it mostly just depresses me. I continue to see people at their absolute worst, and I honestly can’t take it anymore. So, I’m getting rid of Twitter and Facebook by end of the week. I’ve already made both private. I’ll keep Instagram because I love seeing peoples’ photos and keeping up with their lives that way, but otherwise, I’m focusing on my writing from here forward. That’s that! (Reader, he did not focus on his writing.)
Does anyone else wonder what has happened to us as a species? I was trying to have this conversation on Twitter last night, but I feel like no one really engages in social media anymore, except to complain or bash other people. Or “cancel” them. It’s definitely not what it used to be, and I don’t know if that’s because of what’s happening right now with the pandemic or because of how we’ve changed as a people. Or maybe it’s just me?
Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way we treat each other; perhaps mistreat is the better word. For all our desires for “self-help” and focusing on living up to our potentials, promising that everyone has a chance, etc. etc., it seems that we’ve come full circle into a culture not of support or positivity, but of complete narcissism. Me, my, I. Look at these people shouting down healthcare workers in the middle of the street; people are putting their lives on the line, and you’re out there screaming in their face because you can’t get a $50 haircut? Who are we, really?
I know, I know. You’re probably reading this thinking, “that’s not me!” And you might be an exception. I might be an exception. A lot of us, I know, love very much and very deeply, and we really do want what’s best for people, not just ourselves. But we are we. This world as it is spinning out of control is spinning out of control because of us, and that includes you and it includes me. We’ve either been too passive, too apathetic, or (some of us — okay, not you and not me) we’ve been too actively antagonistic, selfish, and self-involved. I’m at my wit’s end. I think we’ve reached the end of our human experiment. I think we used up all of our chances. I don’t see a path back from this, really, and the only consolation I have, in the deep, far reaches of my subconscious, are tiny little reminders that other people have felt this way in other very difficult times in human history. That’s the only nod to perspective that I’ll make, because mostly, I feel absolutely helpless and almost completely done with it all. (Sorry, the cheer has gone.)
Hey, that’s not bad for a month’s reading! I just realized, though, that I haven’t touched my BACK TO THE CLASSICS challenge list. Drat! Fortunately, I don’t have to do any re-reading this summer (for courses I’m teaching), because I’ve recently read everything I’m assigning. My general rule is, if I’m assigning it to a class but haven’t read it myself in the last year, then I need to go back and re-read. Anyway, I’ll devote some time and attention to my B2TC list this summer. Maybe I’ll start with Little House on the Prairie. What do you think? (P.S. Did you know Goodreads has added “setting” to the book description area? That’s freaking awesome!)
Currently Reading: Mark Doty’s Fire to Fire (poetry); The Age of Atheists (nonfiction); and just beginning Ta-Nehisi Coates’ The Water Dancer (fiction). I’m almost done with The Age of Atheists and it has been pretty wonderful. Really enlightening, though I feel like it’s just a jumping-off point for a lifetime of learning. Isn’t everything? Doty’s poetry always gets me going and I’ve really been enjoying some of this collection in particular. He has a set of themed poems running through it, too, which will be fun to write about at some later time. And I’m on PAGE 1 of The Water Dancer, so I can’t say much about it except that I’ve been looking forward to it. Have you read it? What did you think?
Currently Listening To: Tegan and Sara, Hey I’m Just Like You (2019). Tegan and Sara are wild and brilliant and fun. They’re one of my favorite bands for good reason, and this, their ninth studio album, is their second-best after their 2004 release, So Jealous. Both albums are of the don’t-skip-a-single-song variety, which is the only kind of album worth listening to, isn’t it? At the moment, I’m spinning, “Don’t Believe the Things They Tell You,” one of the psychologically darker of the album, though just as honest and blunt as every single track on this one. “I don’t want to be a liar / But I do it every day / I don’t want to be so tired / But I can’t sleep any way.” I suppose any song about insomnia pulls at me, but with a haunting melody that reminds one of those three a.m. automatic writing sessions, this one stands out.
Teaching Updates: This is the penultimate week of the semester and I’m ready to breathe one big sigh of relief. There’s been a lot that has been absolutely inspiring about this term and these groups of students, but so much that has been completely and utterly exhausting. I won’t have much time to relax or recover between the time when spring term ends and the summer term begins, but I’ll find a way to use that time wisely. I hope I will, anyway. We’re thinking of moving, and that does not seem like a wise use of the time. Nevada hasn’t decided yet what will happen with schools, though UNLV and UNR seem prepared to open in the fall as usual; I think there may be some modifications, though, like smaller class sizes, hybrid classes, or an abundance of online courses. As for me, I was told that I could plan for whatever would be best for me, and what’s best for me is causing the least possible disruption for my students. And that means I’ll be online.
Current Status: We have 5,491 confirmed cases and 266 deaths. The Governor’s order is set to expire on May 15th but there’s some confusion because he joined the western states’ coalition, which is not prepared to open on the 15th. The Governor himself has said he wants to see a daily decrease in cases for two full weeks before considering reopening, but we’re not seeing daily declines yet. So, what does that mean? I have no idea. I think we will probably begin a very slow/soft reopening based on types of business and even those businesses that do open will probably have to operate under certain conditions that comply with social distancing. I thought I’d be dying for a haircut at this point but, to be honest, I might grow it out for a while. In any case, I’m glad my state is one with a Governor who listens to the scientists and the experts and who tries to do the right thing for peoples’ health and the economy. I just wish we could be doing more to help people in need; from what I understand, our state unemployment system is not even close to keeping up with the demand.
Positive Thoughts: Fine, here’s a nugget: I watched the new Michelle Obama documentary for Becoming this morning. She ends on a message of hope. If she of all people, having been through what she has and treated the way she was, can still be hopeful, then I can try to do the same. At least for a moment, and maybe that’s the only way. Try this moment. And then try again the next.
I also feel absolutely helpless and almost completely done with it all. It scares people when I say that, so I’m glad to see someone else saying it; makes me feel less alone.
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Thank you for saying so. I received a message from a friend saying the same. We need to keep breaking the silence.
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Thank you for your honesty about how bleak you’re feeling.
I wish our school would hurry up and move online for the fall. I’m glad your school is letting you choose what’s best for you and your students.
Congrats on reaching the end of your semester. I still have a month to go, and, like you, I’m teaching a summer class so won’t get much of a chance to breathe, but it’ll be a lighter load so that will be nice.
Take care of yourself. I’m glad to see you’ve gotten back into a regular exercise routine because I have not.
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I am on Twitter but am totally anonymous & don’t share anything. I have no followers. I can’t bring myself to go live! ‘Tis a toxic environment. I just use it to see what’s happening in the blogging world.
I read all your tweets & am sad to hear you’ll be going private. (Though obviously I understand completely.) Tweets like yours are the ones I’m there for. To see the courageous questions within the madness.
A friend of mine says that politics is made up of the people greedy enough to go through it all to get to the top & manipulate however necessary to get there. I’d say social media is going the same way — people with something valuable to share are giving up, & it’s showing.
I saw your tweet the other day asking what has happened to us & I tweeted this thread on my profile in response (selfishly, where no one can see it!)
Believe it or not, I think there are many in this online world who have positive contributions to make. I am thinking of writers like Brian from Babbling Books. People who speak their mind, who listen, who have interesting new insights that go against the grain, and who breathe courage. The Internet is an INCREDIBLE tool. Any one of us can build a platform and spread positivity and hope and find like minds who stimulate our perspectives. Leaves of Grass is so much more than a book — right? It’s a conversation. An experience, like walking with Whitman, or Emerson, or Thoreau himself.
But everything has its downside, and unfortunately the potential beauty in online conversation invites stupidity. And as we (I include myself in this equation) begin to back away from it, the proportion of stupid versus enriching multiplies exponentially.
As for people? I think they have always been ridiculous. Look throughout history. People don’t listen, don’t talk, build rash assumptions and shout about them. Humanity is a totally ridiculous cesspool of potential realized and potential squashed. What’s happening isn’t that humanity is getting stupider. It’s that those of us with something valuable to contribute are becoming disheartened. Our voices are weakening. It is becoming too difficult to bother.
You always speak with courage and intelligence and are an extremely bright light in this community. That you’ve lasted this long is a wonder, for it is exhausting indeed. Just know that you are not speaking to an empty room, Adam. I have been listening, and I imagine that many have.
What is courageous about humanity is that some of those bright, lonely sparks ever bothered to speak at all. We remember them for the wisdom that stood out in the midst of human madness.
All that said, Twitter is exhausting, and focusing on your writing makes sense. I can’t seem to focus right now and keep scrolling through social media. If nothing else, it gives me a hint of what people are REALLY thinking — as opposed to what the news wants us to think.
This is a Trump world. We knew when he was elected that it would polarize us. We’ve known all our lives people can be hateful and disgusting. You are not alone in your sadness. But I think it’s been here all along, dear Adam. It’s just that now people have a platform around which to rally. Trump is basically The Birth of a Nation for our century: and as obviously manipulative. He’s giving people some fuel for their distorted philosophy. He’s galvanizing hate so people can call it patriotism.
His presidency is putting a spotlight on what has always been wrong with America and what is clearly, clearly not resolved yet. Social media makes it all too easy to see what this world is thinking. But there are bright lights out there too, Adam. What’s wrong with the world is radical anger disguised as patriotism, passivity, total lack of understanding about history, and an inability to communicate at all. We make speeches. We defend our principles. We climb aboard popular political fads. And we aren’t thinking at all. Those who are thinking are the history-makers, though they may not know it. x
I hope you keep blogging, Adam, but whatever you choose, I hope you keep in touch. Las Vegas is a long way from Atlanta. If not for social media, I’d have no idea you exist. As it is, I consider you a friend, and a human I highly respect. I often quote you as though you are Emerson or Lincoln when discussing topics in real life. “Well, Adam says _____.”
You have not been speaking into a void. If writing is to become your focus, I imagine it’s a worthy cause. ❤
Will you still be on Goodreads? Maybe I should turn mine back on so we can connect that way. None of my social media is turned on anymore. I have basically plunged my head deep, deep, deep into the sand so that I needn’t bother with unpleasant people. I am basically Ashley Wilkes. So please understand that all of the above said, I TOTALLY GET IT. xox
By the way, I believe it’s possible on Twitter to hide any comments that annoy you in response to your tweets. They’d still be accessible by a little icon if anyone wants to notice that or bother, but you could ignore them & make them all but invisible. And you could create a list of the twitter people you want to follow who inspire you, and just follow that as opposed to your whole feed. For a more positive experience. 🙂
I’ve been considering a private Twitter so I could connect with people like you and avoid the irritations. But then I’d feel like every time someone requests an in on my account I’m assessing who’s in and who isn’t and I AIN’T UP TO THE TASK. I’ve got a lot of my grandmother’s ingrained Southern hospitality in me, so I’d inevitably let everyone in and be back where I started. 🙂
Facebook is too much for me. I don’t think I like having my every thought out there for “vote” or “dissection” by otherwise relatively mild people like a cousin I hardly speak with who could care less what I think until it appears in her feed. I tried just posting quotes and poems for a while (things I thought couldn’t possibly inspire controversy) and even those were voted on, critiqued, and found wanting. Or else ignored entirely. Seems far too much like a vote by number community. People thumbing up and down your valued thoughts, or worse challenging you on them without the benefit of measured thought. ‘Tis a knee-jerk world.
The best place I’ve found is book blogging but even that makes me shy these days. People often don’t read your post at all and respond with comments based off the hunch they gleaned on a quick skim. I once posted a feminist defense of Little Women that concluded with the idea that Alcott’s novel makes domesticity a strong platform from which to change the world, and that I don’t feel Jo settles in the slightest in the book: we merely perceive that she’s settled. Alcott suggests that marriage isn’t the end of a woman’s life, if she finds a strong partner. And that each of the sisters’ goals were worthy, but in the broken world had to be compromised realistically. Jo ends up a forgotten woman who made enormous contributions, even if no one remembers her. Which makes the book VERY MUCH about the American woman, who strives with as much grace and courage as any of the men we remember but must content herself to doing so without acknowledgement.
A commenter totally missed my message and chastised me for dismissing domesticity (which isn’t what I was doing a-tall, I being the biggest homebody known to humanity and one who would be totally satisfied staying home and making bread for tiny people forever, though I have no children, and who adores and respects her own mother, who chose homemaking and glad I am for it, because I benefited extremely.)
Disheartening indeed. But it’s probably not a new dilemma. Authors have always had to fend off criticism. I wish I had a clever mine & could skillfully respond like J.K. Rowling. 🙂
(PS: YOU ARE A BIG REASON I EVER READ J.K. ROWLING. NOW I CAN’T IMAGINE NOT HAVING READ HER.)
Pardon me, I have gone all Anne Shirley and filled up another comment box.
We need a band of deep, kind, intellectual thinkers online to wrap about ourselves like a cloak. The kind souls who will hear us and inspire us rather than nipping and destroying like a mob of uneducated canines. A Jolliness Club.
I will still be on Goodreads and Instagram. There’s no drama (that I notice or ever feel compelled to be drawn into). I’m also probably keeping my Twitter account (now set to private) to share my reading and writing posts, but I have them set to publicize automatically so I won’t actually be on Twitter. Same with Facebook for now. Logged out of both, don’t have the apps on my phone, snip! I’ve noticed that no one really engages anymore, anyway, at least not with the things that matter. If I share a new post I wrote and care about, nothing. Not even on Facebook. If I share a funny old quote from Rodney Dangerfield? Oh, the likes! Nah. That plus the overwhelming toxicity are a recipe for disaster.
I like the idea of a Jolliness Club.
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Yes, it’s a true shame. Well, it’s a lovely world once you snip. Much quieter, much more peaceful. I will probably get up my nerve & find you on Goodreads one of these days. Until then, best wishes & a big hug!! xo
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“When a man’s own culture falls behind that of his time, he is conservative. When it outstrips and enables him to over-see his time, he is a reformer.” – Bronson Alcott
“Men are conservatives when they are least vigorous, or when they are most luxurious. They are conservatives after dinner, or before taking their rest; when they are sick, or aged: in the morning, or when their intellect or their conscience have been aroused, when they hear music, or when they read poetry, they are radicals.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Consider how few persons you shall meet who are as sweet & sane as nature is. One quaffs health, courage, genius, and sanctity from that cup, and is never satiated with it.” – Bronson Alcott
I was going to apologize for becoming a pest here, but now I can’t find my two previous comments, so possibly WordPress ate them and I may persevere with a clean slate. 😀
I just wanted to add that I was reading Bronson Alcott’s Journals recently, and in one of his entries he describes walking with Thoreau through the woods. The two of them lament that they are outcasts in their small town, that no one listens, that the world around them carries on from day to day without seeing it or truly living it, & this makes them despondent. It is perhaps the universal lament of the poet. x
By the way, crazy things I learned? Bronson Alcott was working out the theory we find in Emerson’s first essay Nature long before Emerson himself wrote it, & he himself was arrested for not paying his poll tax as a form of civil disobedience years before Thoreau did the same thing and wrote his famous essay about it. He laments being “an idea without hands” because he feels he has much to share but lacks the ability to write his ideas clearly. He was dismissed in his time. x
This is really interesting. Bronson is one I really don’t know anything about, besides his involvement with the Transcendentalists and some of his teaching methods. I’ll need to get reading!
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He is an extremely interesting man. Dismissed as radical in his time. His surviving published writing is badly written, from what I’ve heard. Emerson found him absolutely fascinating, as did Thoreau (who apparently alludes to him in Walden), but he never learned how to write. Emerson coached him to write as he talked, but it always came out bombastic and unreadable. In his journals you can see his ideas as you apparently cannot in his other works, like Tablets, which is frequently still ridiculed. His journals were written for himself, so he only related his ideas there without overwriting.
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I’ve never been on Facebook, but I found that in recent years, I had to way cut back on Twitter because all of the negativity/anger/ease of access to negative news was really messing with my moods. I just find that brand of social media so distressing–even from perspectives I may agree with, there seems to be so much shallowness and anger. Instagram is much more to my taste. Partly because of all the pretty pictures, which I often find inspiring, partly because I’ve been careful to curate who I follow. You may be interested in the book How to Do Nothing, by Jenny Odell. It’s not a “how to” book, but rather a treatise against the “attention economy,” and really condemns the shallowness and lack of contextualization it thrives on.
That sounds like an excellent read right now, thank you for the suggestion!
I’m so sorry you’re feeling bleak and hopeless. Thank you for sharing your feelings and helping others to talk about how they feel. It’s a good thing you do. It’s probably the only thing we can all do right now – is to reach out to those around us, those in our wider network, to make sure everyone is as okay as they can be. To listen, to talk, to share, to understand and to offer up hope to each other.
I’ve been reading stuff about 1919 and the Spanish flu. Many suffered despair, depression and the mood swings back then. They were difficult and trying times, but eventually, the world moved on. Some lessons were learnt; others ignored, but the world kept spinning round.
Obviously we’ve had a very different experience in Australia which perhaps allows me to feel more hopeful and positive. Your governor sounds switched onto the realities of the situation, so for that you can be grateful. Take care, take heart.