Saturday, July 14, 2012

Feeding the Machine

The worldwide web is a vast wasteland akin to television — a place rich with possibility, yet so consumed by a clever-trite collision of egos as to be almost unbearable. There are voices, of course, that stand out and rise above the clamor; and there are genuine friendships that have been and are being forged. By and large, though, we have a tragic case on our hands, a mind-numbing situation in which billions of people are feeding the machine, instead of being fed, and, more importantly, nourished by it. What passes as reasoned discourse is really just gossip and hyperbole, a glib trading of congratulations and puns meant to attract attention. Presented in type, emphasized in quotes out of context, illustrated by emoticons and recycled images, many of which are stolen, this discourse is ignorance made visible. The degree to which we are infected by this disease — for the habitual waste of precious time and energy is a disease — is revealed in mental and physical paralysis that leaves us capable of little more than liking and sharing things on Facebook without having to do any real thinking or real work ourselves. The idea of study — taking our time, digging deeper, analyzing our thoughts and opinions and those of others and recognizing the need to grow and change — is all but dead in the water. Instead, if someone says something that reinforces our childish, unexamined idea of ourselves, we are satisfied. This is fine for those whose goal in life is to pass time. But for those who understand that their presence here is a fleeting, fragile gift, it is dangerous and unacceptable.


Conrad DiDiodato said...


agreed on all points (and I'd add the deleterious effects on the young vis-a-vis the growing-but-soon-to-be-stunted growth of frontal lobe intelligence. I fear, quite literally, the minds of the mind are turning into an extension of their Androids.)

I was having just this discussion recently at my site: but as I said there to much the same criticisms as your making (and made as articulately), the Internet is also a place of nourishing/nutritive 'voices' whose presence is always an opportunity for growth. Among which I'd be happy to include William Michaelian.

Ed Baker said...

as I am NOT one to (usually) comment
especially since over on another blog just this am
I was jus'-about making this very point !

we've become even a worst clone of those Schmos who used to multiply faster than rabbits and rats and were in the Lil Abner comic strip...

AMEN to what you say.... might as well be pissing into the wind

oppps can you these daze say "Amen"
on the politically correct net without pissing off "Awomen"
or do we now have to write 'copulation' rather the 'fuck'
and try to make the former rhyme with 'duck' ?

Jan said...

I believe that I'll just stop by another day...

Two Tigers said...

And I too was just writing about this subject over on my blog, post before it does seem that in the very shadow of the mass-producing poison-spewing factory, there is a small honest thriving garden being tended by caring and able hands, among which I recognize yours, William. As long as we few are nourished by the delicate imperiled crops we grow there, perhaps we can ask no more.

William Michaelian said...

Conrad, thanks very much, and thanks for adding and offering your thoughts.

Ed, thank you too. I suppose we can say whatever we want, but whether or not people will listen and understand depends on how we say it.

Jan, I’ll be grateful, as always, when you do.

Gabriella, thank you. I think, too, that there are important lessons to be learned from weeds.

Ed Baker said...

the point is/was that in the context of what is in character of & to-the voice of the piece faithfully written written
the author really is NOT responsible for the reader's understanding ...

it's not about "want" it s about a
less greedy attitude minus any agenda... or some-such?

or as Allen Ginsberg said "we write for those who 'dig it'"

William Michaelian said...

Ed, there’s an entire blog entry or essay in that subject. But part of “digging it” is wanting to dig it, or at least being open to the possibility, especially if there is something to dig. That said, maybe the author isn’t responsible for the reader’s understanding; but I see time and again where he is responsible for the reader’s misunderstanding, or, even worse, his lack of engagement. And that’s another lost opportunity.

Ed Baker said...

well I like your attitude, Bill
in (almost) all ways have... and
this certainly is an "engagement" a bit beyond the normal insipid blogger-commenter comments....
an "engagement" doesn't necessarily lead one down the path to a "marriage" not even an arranged or a prescribed one by that abstract "we" ?

(I certainly could have just written a more better sentence there....however
nothing is perfect &
this is it )

Joseph Hutchison said...

Ed's correct that writers aren't responsible for the reader's understanding, but they are responsible for providing access to understanding. As a guy I've been reading, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, puts it in one of his journals: "A way of writing: as one prunes olive trees in order to aerate them and make sure that all their branches can be reached by ladders." Much of the Web wasteland you rightly attack here has been created by people without ladders and/or without olive trees. A grim landscape....

Ed Baker said...

really some terrific insights/points here
(& ifn't I didn't have an "however" I wldn't /un-conditionally/ be my owned "me"

that IS form and content the same thing? or is form merely an extension of contend

I say when the piece be it on paper or in a 3-d situate is "let go" of

"here it is for what worth you the viewer/reader can/will make of it"

gawd knows (who ever "she" may be that I continuously "prune" my "stuff"
not so much so's it will sell in the open market-place or get me a job or a pull-it s-her prize or, even,
another tail to pin on the donkey that carries those bags of just-picked olives down to the square to be shipped around the world ....

now? as the song goes: "I cld be wrong, but, I think y'all are marvelous" and (....)ing smart !

William Michaelian said...

I must say, the reference to pruning is deeply felt. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I’m the writer I am in great part because I was the farmer I was. Thanks, Joe, and thanks again, Ed. Form, content, understanding — to dig or not to dig — maybe another entry really is in order, although I doubt I’m the one to write it. For me it’s always more of a listening thing, built upon the suggestion that we do our best to pay attention, and to be honest with ourselves and others. A simple platform, but the only one I feel comfortable with.

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Don’t You See?

Doesn’t anyone see around us
this unnatural lethargy, a nation almost
hypnotized into digital complacency,
the loss of all community?
You look out for you. I’ll look out for me.
It’s as though we all agreed at once
to look away.

Don’t you sense a certain general slow
decrease in energy, some kind of
supernatural invisibility?
And so the greedy and ambitious men,
disengaged from this reality,
after twenty-thousand years still
rule the Earth. Still make a mess.

But if no conflict then no consequence,
no task to overcome, reason to proceed,
no victory or success.
Does no one see this debilitating need,
this desire to run away and hide?
Being handed what you want is not a challenge,
or finding it or stealing or having lied.

So how should we obtain, then,
rise up to take this challenge?
How do those without greed or blind ambition
learn to care for what the greedy need?
How do those without need for dominance
learn to fight and inflict violence?

Copyright 2010 – Ponds and Lawns: New and Corrected Poems, Gary B. Fitzgerald

William Michaelian said...

Mr. Appleseed: Greetings, and I thank you once again.

Ed Baker said...


i suppose that "we"
sometime in the 80's
under Ronald Reagan got
lobotomized & went brain-dead

or did this happen under Ike?
or under Methuselah ?

just this week my groceries
up the street just went up another
4+ % ! my usual jug of generic peanut butter is now almost $13
up from about 6 (for a 3 lb jug)

ALL of our angst will disappear
when "we" eliminate the poor & those damn, nasty, "Illegals".

what "we" need right now is those apples on that tree that you just planted
another "Adam & Eve" to start the ball rolling again... this time around? NO FIG LEAVES &
No Michelangelo finger-from
"the One True God"

pointing towards that White Cloud In The Sky

well... an election is fast approaching... let us ALL vote for "change"

Gary B. Fitzgerald said...

Hello Ed Baker. Long time no read. Reminds me of the old days at Silliman’s Blog. I rarely go on the internet anymore, though.

I wanted to reply to your comment, but you covered a lot of ground there so I didn’t exactly know which observation to respond to.

Hope all is well with you.


Ed Baker said...

yeah them daze w Ronald Mc
when comments went by-the-bye
unedited and freely flew into
his total caricature of himself shut-down aren't missed..
am o.k. here as far as I know....

take a stab at responding to any single point even those points are

so? just start from where you are
when you get to the end of the trail
instead of turning around and goin
continue on (in ANY direction) and
make your own trail/way.

stay well & don't 'rock-the-boat' ...

too much.

I REALLY appreciate the "nod" my way..

check out some music-poetry over on Issa's Untidy Hut

manik sharma said...

I second you..Perhaps not in the same quantity of words i have been shouting the same from the top of my roof..But nobody ever listens..I guess because my rooftop isn't on facebook yet..

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Wild Bill,

As long as
people like you

feed the machine, I can
relish the thought.

Stickup Artist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stickup Artist said...

Sorry, made a typo. I'll go again.

Sadly, I have to agree with it all. Have you read "You Are Not a Gadget" by Jared Lanier? He is a computer scientist and an artist, and he claims the web is/has destroyed the ability to make a decent living solely as an artist. Add to that, he made a dedicated search to find at least one artist that made a living out of web publicity and sales only. Other than those with trust funds or huge inheritances, he was not able to find a single one. Even though he was a pioneer in the computer field, specifically virtual reality, he would totally agree with all your conclusions. I highly recommend the book if you haven't all ready read it.

William Michaelian said...

I won’t say this post is receiving more input than I expected, because when I published it I had no expectations. Most everyone who has weighed in, here, and on Facebook where the piece is also linked, knows that I’ve been working extensively online for many years, and how much I value the experience. It has changed me, I know. I can account for some of the changes, but there are others, I’m sure, that I can’t account for, that I’m not even aware of. To a large extent, I’m along for the ride. I think we all are. I’ve yet to meet or read the all-wise person who stands free and clear in this crazy electronic age. We can guess, we can make reasoned and reasonable assumptions, but the fact is, we don’t know exactly what’s happening to us or inside of us, or where it all will lead. Sometimes, to me, it feels almost like science fiction — until I walk away from the computer and settle in with a book, or go outside and pull weeds or water the garden. A dead bird on our unwatered lawn is enough to take me back to my small town childhood, where computers didn’t exist, and where, when walking through our little burg people acknowledged each other in passing — and I am not idealizing. That’s really the way it was. It didn’t matter whether or not we knew the other person. What mattered is that we were there. And that has always stayed with me, and I live that way today. Whether I’m at the grocery store or in cyberspace, it’s all the same, and the same feeling applies.

Ed, you have your ideas, and I’m sure many of them are right. Your poetic, free-form way of conveying them is different than most, and doesn’t always leave an easy way in. That enhances their value for some, and lessens it for others, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, just as I wouldn’t change Gary’s Johnny Appleseed approach of sprinkling his poems around the web, which also cannot be answered or responded to in any neat, convenient way.

Manik, thank you. There are probably more people listening than you realize. But shouting is seldom the way. Next time, try whispering. You will even hear yourself differently.

Vassilis, thank you too — although, in a way, if there are others like me, I can’t help but pity them!

Stickup Artist, thanks for the recommendation. I haven’t read Jared Lanier’s book. It sounds like we are living his conclusions. But other than a few rare exceptions, living by the arts has never been an easy row to hoe. That said, this web experience is much larger than that. We artist-types occupy only a small portion of cyberspace. What’s happening is happening to everyone whose lives are bound up with the computer. At this very moment, vast amounts of energy are being frittered away by people trying to be clever and funny under various guises and poses. They profess undying friendship at the drop of a hat, and yet when they meet in public they can’t look each other in the eye. They are more isolated than ever.

Thanks, once again, to everyone who has read this piece, and thanks to all who have commented.

Transcend Designs said...

Great post William, as your words are always spot-on...
I think as long as we stay true to our creative endeavors, those will always outshine whatever dregs maybe residing around the corner, though even they need to exist in this dualistic realm of ours...
as for Facebook, it's just too much to keep up with, for me anyways, as my 5 year old just won't have it...! ; )
Be well my friend!

William Michaelian said...

Thank you, Brad. May your five-year-old’s beautiful instincts remain untrammeled. Outgrowing our children — being too busy for them, thinking our time is more important or valuable than theirs — will surely lead to emptiness, loneliness, and frustration. You’re right, too, about staying true to our creative endeavors. And if we don’t know what they are, then our work is to find out.

RUDHI Rüscher said...

Interresting readings here, William! Sometimes I mean, it's a bit like filling up a barrel without ground as the 'Danaides'; or a club of lonely hearts... but some paintings I sold on Internet, because the galleries here are very ignorant to extraordinary artists like me (here). Many, many circles are opening and closing all the times at the same times everywhere - amazing life! It will change also as everything more or less, earlyer or later, I think...

William Michaelian said...

Like raindrops on a pond, Rudhi — circles large, circles small, circles inside other circles....