2019 in Perspective

The Rebel
11" x 14" mixed media on canvas.
I spent New Year's Eve on the road.

The tires ate up the miles between home and adventure. My kids and I greeted the dawn in the mountains of Virginia, completely off the grid. I am profoundly grateful there are still places in our world untouched by modern life and its baggage.

I don't shy away from the fact that I am a Luddite. I maneuver through our technological society with growing reluctance. I was among the last of my friends to purchase a smartphone years ago during the last dregs of the recession. Speaking honestly, I feel like I've been shackled to a loudspeaker ever since.

You see, 2019 was all about noise. Give a few billion people their own social media and suddenly everyone is a star. Things that used to be noncontroversial are now boggy minefields armchair soldiers die on. We're screaming at each other about our individual plights while talking past the very global crisis that exists beyond our screens. 

The surreal aspect of all this is that it feels like we're living in the horror novels of my childhood.

I began reading horror novels at the age of 10. Unleashed into the library shelves by a grandmother grown weary of my rampant curiosity, I stumbled over Dean Koontz. The first of his books I ever read was a novel called Midnight. He created the sleepy little community of Moonlight Cove to be a testing ground for cutting-edge nanotech. Long before anyone in public mentioned the idea that we could create technology to fix ourselves, Koontz spoke about the societal impact. From Midnight to Shadowfires, he had me enthralled. 

And here I am, two decades later, living in a world that is chillingly similar to the allegories Koontz penned. Like the residents of Moonlight Cove, our citizens are choosing to devolve into animalistic bloodshed or evolve towards cerebral integration with their computers. Our actual lives are the ones we automate now. We're too busy living our best life on the Internet, complete with our own little web addresses we pay for in yearly increments.

So I badly needed that road trip to remind me what fresh air tastes like. I had to see the sun rising over the mountains to actually recall that I don't need a screen to validate my existence. But it's come to that, hasn't it?

We are so captivated with our technology that a lack of wi-fi for any lengthy duration will surely topple our civilization. People have simply forgotten how to use common sense and courtesy. We are ruder now and more isolated. We seem to gather together only in our pain after the headlines blare with the sirens of another scandal. Another shooting. Another bomb.

I know, I know. Chaos is deliciously addictive. One blink and you've spent two hours browsing headlines on Twitter or countering posts on Facebook. It also doesn't help that our emotions are simultaneously being bombarded with advertising on every venue. When you require ad blockers for your ad blocker, things have surely gotten out of hand.

So who can remember what happened in 2019? What made it remarkable? What triumphs did we accomplish? I feel many of us don't even know. If we weren't tuned out of the problems, we were turned into the frenzy.

We are in the lion's den, ladies and gentlemen. 
But we haven't prepared ourselves to meet the beast. 

The beast is us, you know. It always was. It's not just individual spiders running rampant in the dark anonymous corners of the Web anymore. The lunatic fringe now has center stage. And in the words of Maximus"Are you not entertained?"

Because this is all theater, folks. What we see on our screens is amplified, magnified, dissected and reconstructed so that we can freely choose any of the infinite illusions being presented to us.

But I live in the real world, my friends. The one that's dying.

We are witnessing the last days of our way of life while we bicker over nonsense. I don't believe it's an exaggeration to say we're living The Third Wave of Alvin Toffler's vision, the dystopian quagmire of The Rational Optimist, and the biological reality of The Plant Paradox. We know this in our bones, deep down where the Lovecraftian feeling of dread is born.

And in 2019, we made all the noise in the world 
to avoid hearing this singular, fatalistic truth because ignorance is bliss.

A relative asked me not long ago why I keep purchasing pictures and sculptures of elephants.
I contemplated this for a moment, then said:

"I want to remember what they look like
because I think we're going to be the last generations to see them."

May your path ever grow and flourish.


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