Monday, July 8

the past isn't that evenly distributed either

The other night, staying with a cousin in Tennessee on my way to another cousin's wedding, I woke up in the guest room in a comfortable bed in a nice house in a nice part of Nashville and didn't know where I was. Or for that matter exactly who. For a couple of those strange, slippery seconds while my memory tried to get a lock on the surroundings, nothing would resolve into a coherent frame.

Every now and then I get just a little outside of time. A decade slides out of focus, bending like an analog TV picture under interference, and the last thing I'm sure of is the shape of some summer day in Kansas or Missouri or Nebraska, when everything was still more or less as it had been, when the total realization of impermanence hadn't yet broken me.

I moved here with a dozen boxes of paper books. Enough that I don't know where I'm going to put half of them without building shelves. They're collectively the heaviest thing in the building — the seeds of a real library, a start at realizing this daydream of a life surrounded by volumes. And they're suddenly, in one of those everyone-everywhere reorderings of civilization itself, an affectation.

Most of yesterday I read a novel on a Kindle Paperwhite, an anonymous little slab of electronics with a battery life you could probably measure in weeks. The boxes of books are stacked in a loose wall down the middle of the room, brooding, biding their time, breathing out a fine mist of stubborn obsolescence, entire lives of the mind rendered on a surface we're about to cede to digital absolutism. Like everything else, the medium that birthed and sustained nearly every subsequent abstraction has blurred at the edges, the textures and possibilities all subtly transmuted, as it washes into the computational.

The radio's on again: Tech not much changed in its fundamentals since well before I was born, even as most of the systems that feed its noise have been swept into the network.

Elsewhere on the spectrum the cell signal is nearly absent. The lack of an internet connection is a constant irritant. I begin to wonder in sincerity how much of my mind actually lives in the machinery — where the system of me leaves off and the system of the world begins.