The Gingerbread Man in Zombie Land


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THE GIFT OF ATTENTION

Lately, ever since I discovered Facebook, I’ve been finding it hard to give myself the gift of my own attention.  I am constantly trying to concentrate on five things at once, and so I end up unable to really focus on anything at all.  I am like a computer thrashing or hung up on an endless looping operation and no longer capable of doing any real work.

There was a time when I flipped on the computer in order to create. That time seems long ago, now that I am constantly receiving trivial inputs from multiple sources. I used to have ideas, some original, often synthesized from reading and prolonged thought.  Again, that was long ago and this is now.

Lately, I’ve found that I can write again if I simply close Facebook so that it doesn’t make a noise to snag my attention every time somebody “likes” one of my posts. These are called “alerts.”  They serve to rouse the somnambulant. Writers have always experienced the difficulty of sitting still long enough for the creative process to begin and then managing to stick with it long enough to realize a product.  Every excuse imaginable pops into a mind facing a blank page or screen. Hmm, I haven’t polished my shoes in a while. Wonder what those new lime-green Oreos taste like?

When I am afraid or unwilling to sit still long enough to develop some sort of one-mindedness, by the time I reach the middle of my day I  find myself exhausted and demoralized.  Better to fire myself up with a few cups of coffee early and then get as jazzed as possible before my blood sugar plummets and I become so irritable that I run screaming from my house.

When I analyze the emotion that led me to this place, I realize that I’m afraid of my own unhappiness.  I fear that if I don’t run fast enough through the tunnel of distraction, a real accounting of my situation will finally catch up with me and I’ll simply succumb.  I’ll die. It will kill me.

“Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man.  I ran away from a Little Old Lady and a Little Old Man, and I’ll run away from you, I can, I can.”

Running, especially running away, has a way of becoming a full-time job.  Part-time dalliances don’t pay off as well as concentrated efforts.  Gotta slow down.  Gotta choose my battles. After all, isn’t today a gift?  Aren’t I in reasonably good health?  If not now, when?  If not me, who?

Surely nothing good can come from a half-hearted effort.  If I try to read a book, talk on the telephone, play the piano and watch television all at the same time, I will excel at none of these. Last night I went to an enormous coffee house here on the top floor of a trendy shopping mall near a university. It was jammed with maybe two hundred students who were silently staring at their laptops.  No one was speaking.  It felt like church.

I remember skipping classes in order to hang out in the student union, drink coffee and socialize, but it was nothing like this.  As I recall, somebody kept playing “Leaving on a jet plane” by Peter Paul and Mary on the jukebox. I’m sure my friends and I were yapping on about something or other, but compared to that, this student scene forty-five years later was positively eerie. One might dare say creepy.

Maybe these were good students deeply engaged in their homework.  They seemed hypnotized. Someone deep in thought can look that way, but often someone who is thinking or reasoning deeply is moving about, sketching or talking to himself.  These people were staring at their laptops and making small movements with their mice. The only noise was mice clicks.

If all the young people are hypnotized, who is going to create the new products that can be streamed to a zombie audience?  Won’t they get tired to watching or listening to the products my generation?

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WOULD THE CAMERAMAN ALSO DO THE SHOOTING?


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BAMBI HIT SQUAD

Because I am a stranger in a country where I do not speak the language, a lot of my contact with the outside world comes from Facebook, and it is through social media that I catch wind of trends, sully myself in American politics, and learn what my friends far away worry and get excited about.

Recently, I’ve noticed that a number of pictures of grieving baby elephants and rhinos have floated past me in the never-ending torrent of images that is Facebook, and these always engender quite a viewer/reader response.  Surely there is someone out there who notes these trends, and in the search for a sure-fire show biz winner, is hatching a scheme to capitalize on the grieving baby syndrome.

What about a Bambi Hit Squad, a crew of killer filmmakers who mow down animal mothers in order to film their grieving offspring?  Dub a simple voice-over by an earnest environmentalist over ninety minutes of the melancholy antics of various orphaned baby animals and you’ve got yourself a sure-fire hit.

Just an idea, but it seems like such a sound one I wonder if there isn’t already a crew in the field already doing just this. If not yet, there soon may be.  Today there was another post, this one about grieving coyotes and wolves.