Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Is silence golden?

Insert usual excuses for not blogging here.


I have been wondering lately about this whole imperative to say stuff on the Internet as often as possible. Where does this very recent, overwhelmingly powerful requirement to write in public come from? I think it's safe to say it comes from corporations, whose need to draw "eyeballs" to advertisements intersects powerfully with 1) the human need for connection and attention generally, and 2) writers' need to write and be read specifically.


1) This is not necessarily bad. There's a real discipline to rapid, public writing--which is still evolving, and whose shaky tenets many, many people don't practice. But still, discipline is good. Learning to write both reasonably well and reasonably fast is good. And who will finance this sort-of-real/sort-of-fake form of publication for aspiring writers, if not the makers of dangerous diet pills and fly-by-night, for-profit colleges?

2) My ambivalence about the compulsion to write is neither a satisfactory excuse for not writing, nor an indication I intend to give up blogging, or tweeting, or anything else.

3) I'm just saying.

What am I saying? I'm saying that last week I had in mind a post about the Ronco Rhinestone and Stud Setter, which was inspired by a pair of jeans I'd just bought at a thrift shop. They are Michael Kors, very nice, $14, but until I brought them home I was not fully aware of the large amount of studs adorning the front and back pockets. Normally I'm not a fan of adornments on jeans; I'm sure these will make my life a living hell if I forget and wear them through an airport scanner or if I happen to amble past a giant magnet. Also, they reminded me of Barbara Stanwyck in The Thorn Birds, stomping around the ranch with her dentures and bowed legs. By which I mean, too much stuff on jeans is either for 1) very young people or 2) old people trying to look young. Neither of which I 1) am or 2) wish to be.

But then the Sikh temple shooting happened, on the heels of the Aurora shooting, and those are just the awful happenings I happened to be paying most attention to, thanks to the Internet. A breezy post about the Ronco Rhinestone and Stud Setter had to be out of the question for at least a period of time (how long? Is now OK?). But was I supposed to say something instead about the shootings? Does saying something mean you are automatically more concerned than if you say nothing? I started to feel like the better move was to say nothing. Or, rather, that speaking just for the sake of speaking was not helpful. I don't know what *is* helpful. But maybe the traditional "moment of silence" is more than just a mask for "let us pray," when you're not supposed to say that publicly. I'd like to think it also means: let us shut our traps for just a second. Let us pause. Let us not jump and react and flail our arms and demand attention. Perhaps only silence is as enormous as certain events, and speech is too small a thing in such circumstances.

So there. I said something about saying nothing. You're welcome, Internet.

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