A remarkable coincidence that feels suspicious.
When it comes to the Internet, one of the things I say most often is "I read it somewhere."
I’ve been listening to Ludovico Einaudi for a few years now, as well as Joep Beving and Max Richter. Having grown up playing classical piano I am still soothed by piano music, as well as the mournful cello and soft accompanying strings. And like you, I’m not sure when or where I first discovered Ludovico. Perhaps that YouTube video of him playing in a boat beside a crashing glacier? As for the flowing spigot of online information and noise showering all of our drenched brains, I agree that we need advertising to find new things of interest, but my God, the deluge is overwhelming.
While I try to be aware that there are most definitely subconscious influences on my behavior and thinking, I would have never dived so deep into the possibility that the album release and your desire wasn't just pure serendipity but instead the result of a sequence of unnoticed patterns. Very cool. And traveling and living abroad, as you have done so much of it, actually helps to cement our memories so even if you get them confused with one another, you still remember them. I notice that I have a poorer memory for online conversations than I do physical conversations because there's no context of sensation in which to embed the experience. You are just wonderful, Charles.
I had to sit on this one for a while. Read it twice. The first time I was actually exporting some stuff at work. The second time I wanted to make sure I had nothing else going on.
"There was a time when I knew the source for all my information. For whatever I happened to be bloviating about on a particular day, I could always tell you where I read or heard the story. All of the facts in my head came with citations."
This was actually a stage of informational 'knowledge' decline in conversation not too long ago. "People stopped knowing facts for themselves, and started just knowing where they heard facts." Hyperlink epistemology.
Then Subnormality ( https://viruscomix.com/subnormality.html ) coined a term, that I have forgotten, and have a difficult time finding again, because it was just an idea described on a comic and not made out of specific search terms lest I remember the term I'm forgetting itself, for having information without quite remembering where the source was, but at least being sure the information is true.
Around that time I started considering actively printing out articles I felt held meaningful facts I'd want to cite / refer back to. The obvious cost of time, paper, ink, space became problematic to draw lines around and I gave up before I started. More than a decade later, a global pandemic began and I opened up a "Saved Links" spreadsheet to try to track the evolving stories and discoveries and changing knowledge around this novel coronavirus.
Said spreadsheet quickly became nothing deeper than an ever-growing list of movies and books I want to see and read.
And speaking of which, the issue of really recognizing, taking the moment, to say you have watched a movie or read a book and engaged with it as a unit of media unto itself, as opposed to glimpsed it in a stream of other media that has debased its context -- debased meaning in the slipping the foundation from underneath it, de - based, with a pun toward reducing the moral center that makes a thing a piece of art.
And how to hold on to that recognition? Our hypermediated lives almost beg for a fucking CMS! Some combined personal server of 'my media' plus metadata and tracking of otherwise 'consumed media' with referenced hyperlinks to the external streamed media, just to comfort you that your memories are real. Personal epistemology is now a luxury good for nerds with money and time.
My two working class solutions are as follows: 1) recommend only what you genuinely want other people to appreciate (such as my Movie Recommendations on Substack) so that you can remember to 2) own it on physical media to revisit it. I could even say that in the modern episteme, you haven't read / watched / engaged / considered the thing anymore unless you've experienced it at least twice.
Maybe I should fire up that printer like I originally intended a decade-plus ago.
> I am a little less technological, a little less desirous of speed, a little more willing to ignore the day’s news, a little more interested in silence. Yet I’m surrounded and overwhelmed anyway.
> To pick up a book and read for hours without looking away is, perversely, almost subversive.
These are powerful words and they resonate very much with what I'm experiencing and struggling with every day. Thank you for writing this piece.
Building anything akin to "attention resistance" requires many individuals to step forward and provide their accounts of struggles like these, prompted by a single thought or a memory. I think everyone who is struggling with information overload and attention economy benefits from knowing that they are not alone and that this is not simply "the way things are now".
Small subversive acts will matter even more in the future. All of this reminds me of Pascal:
“All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Such an interesting read Charles. The onslaught can be overstimulating but I wonder if it’s truly different from the sensory experience of 30 years ago when a day was filled with conversations, connecting with nature and people, and physical movements that are missing from many of our lives now. It’s different types of information (and we can discuss the varying qualities), but our brains attend to and process incoming information the same. We are merely attending to a rectangle in our hand rather than the world which is typically more than 18” from our faces.
I happened on the music of Ludovico Einaudi on Amazon. I mistyped the name of the artist I was searching for (now forgotten). I love his music. I am often at a loss for dealing with all the incoming and possibilities presented by the Internet and the technology that serves up our books, music, and other "things we think you will like" but I am occasionally grateful as I was that day and, am now, learning from you about his newest album.
Yeah, you’re describing the world I live in, right down to the Einaudi ... which apparently makes me a cliche to my kids, 30 and 28. Screw them; I’ll like what I like.
First: You're a very strong writer. I enjoyed this a lot. Pulled me right in. Second: "To pick up a book and read for hours without looking away is, perversely, almost subversive. To spend the time required to fully digest a complex topic without rushing to judgement, deciding what you believe after a long contemplation, is oddly radical."
YES!!! Especially in 2023. To be off social media. Substack. Online in general. Focusing on only a book. This is "radical" today indeed. Well said.
"Sincere American Writing"
I am an old man. I grew up in wilderness because my father was a National Park Service photographer, assigned to the Four Corners region, and a Bataan survivor who rarely spoke. So I grew up in silence, around Navajo and Hopi who also rarely spoke. Silence made Reverence possible, and I do not believe that Reverence can thrive in the midst of the cacophony in which we live today. I miss Reverence and seek both Reverence and Silence, though seeking it “actively” seems like a contradiction in terms and seeking it “inactively” even worse. So let’s just call it a longing and go on from there.
I often think that what the internet and the firehose of information - and the clicking from one lily pad to another and another and another until we can no longer recall the lily pad from whence we first lept - has deprived us of us Provenance. And without it, how do we recognize truth. And being finally unrecognizable, how easy to convince us that truth is no longer a meaningful concept. And here we are.
Of the gajillion writers I visit with some regularity these days, young fellow, your thoughts seem closest to my own. Not identical, certainly, nor even arising from common sources or academic traditions, but somehow like brothers in arms.
At university I trained my mind on Joyce. He was my constant companion. I read Ulysses through five times and formulated equally as many brilliant and entirely original theories involving space and time and whateverthefuck. Until my recursive ideas began to resemble nothing quite so much as the mirrors in Lady From Shanghai. I retreated to simplicity and fell in love with its poetry.
Anyway, thanks for this bit. It made me happy to once again be in the presence of actual thought.