How reassuring! How desperate!

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I boarded a flight at Kennedy Airport in New York. There were HSBC ads in the jet bridge. I flew for 24 hours to the bottom of the world. There were HSBC ads in the jet bridge…

I left a country, the United States, in the midst of an election campaign. I arrived in a country, Australia, in the midst of an election campaign…

I had a cappuccino before I left. There was a cute heart shape traced in the foam. Next to the Sydney Opera House, familiar from photographs, I had a cappuccino. There was a cute heart shape traced in the foam…

From my window in Brooklyn Heights I watch joggers at water’s edge, some with dogs or infants in strollers…From my Sydney hotel window I gaze at an urban landscape similarly transformed. I watch joggers at water’s edge. They wear the same gear. They use the same devices. They are into wellness in the same way.

I lose myself in the silvery play of moonlight on water. Where on earth am I? I have traveled a long way through time zones over a vast ocean to find myself in the same place. My Twitter feed looks the same. My Facebook friends have not changed. My little universe with all its little excitements and aggravations is still at my fingertips. My bills are maddeningly accessible. Through an immense displacement nothing has been left behind. Even in another hemisphere I contemplate my life from the same angle. People argue about climate change and same-sex marriage and jobs and immigration, as if the world is now a place where everyone discusses the same thing…

In his great poem “The City,” C.P. Cavafy wrote that: “As you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner, you’ve destroyed it everywhere else in the world.” We never escape our own skins, nor our lives lived to this point, however far we go in search of escape. But today’s trap, fashioned through technology, is of a different nature. The homogenization of experience is also an insidious invitation to conform.

Experience, like journalism, withers without immersion in place. At some level, the truly lived moment involves the ability to get lost — lost in a conversation, or in the back alleys or Naples, or in silence, or in the scents and inflections of a new city. There is no greater thrill than being lost in this way because self is left behind, a form of liberation.

Yet a world is taking form that wants you never to be lost, never to feel displaced, never to be unanchored, never to be unable to photograph yourself, never to stand in awe before mystery, never to exit your safety zone (or only in managed fashion), never to leave your life behind: a world where you travel for 24 hours to your point of departure.

How reassuring! How desperate!…

So I am somewhere else after all. Surely I am. I wake at night, sleep by day, and find myself altogether lost in translation.

~ Roger Cohen, excerpts from Australia or Anywhere


Photo: Hiro Harumatsumoto via Ignant.de

Zigzagging b/w indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, busy selves and better selves

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There’s a lot of status anxiety going about these days. People live suspended between the anxiety of being deluged in communication and the agony of receiving none. They have always wanted to be liked, but now they must also be “liked.” They exist under the digital pressure of reciprocal judgment, a state that knows no repose. They are either on top of things, a momentary illusion, or overwhelmed, a permanent state intermittently denied. They look around wondering how it is possible to keep up. They have access to everything and certainty about nothing. They zigzag between indulgence and denial, frenetic states and cleansing cures, their busy selves and their better selves. They have nightmares about getting a thumbs-down. They ask themselves how the Day of Judgment became day-in, day-out judgment. They make resolutions that unravel. They amass to-do lists that cannot get done. They are not sure where they stand on the ratings scales, on the lists that proliferate, on the global grading of everything and everyone.

This state crept up on them. How such unease came about, who willed it and with what design, was not quite clear, but it must, they thought, have something to do with what is called progress. Where it was headed was equally murky but sometimes the destination looked unappealing, a place where peace had been crowded out by the pursuit of efficiencies.

~ Roger Cohen, The Great Unease


Image: themetapicture.com (Thank you Susan)

This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency.

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Roger Cohen, NY Times: Mow The Law:

[…] I am less interested in the inspirational hero than I am in the myriad doers of everyday good who would shun the description heroic; less interested in the exhortation to “live your dream” than in the obligation to make a living wage.

In Camus’ book, “The Plague,” the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, battles pestilence day after day. It is a Sisyphean task. At one point he says, “I have to tell you this: This whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

Asked what decency is, he responds: “In general, I can’t say, but in my case I know that it consists of doing my job.” Later, he adds, “I don’t think I have any taste for heroism and sainthood. What interests me is to be a man.”

In the everyday task at hand, for woman or man, happiness lurks.

Don’t miss entire op-ed column by Roger Cohen, Mow The Law

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