Sunday Morning

A few days ago I spent a couple of minutes in St. Mary’s Basilica—it was a weekday—where perhaps a dozen people were kneeling in prayer.

Every now and then someone’s cell phone rang.

Horizontal communication refused to surrender, it kept on battling its vertical counterpart.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay


Notes:

Picture is Worth…


Notes:

 

This … or That?

THIS…

Excerpts from A Starry Night Crowded With Selfies by Francis X. Clines (NY Times, 9/23/17):

“This is the scene in front of Vincent van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” at the Museum of Modern Art earlier this month.  The city’s summer tourist season is ending, but visitors still crowd four and five deep in neck-craning hubbubs, brandishing phones to take close-ups and grinning selfies and somehow partake of “Starry Night,” the van Gogh masterpiece at the Museum of Modern Art. The crowds were ceaseless all summer, as they are much of the year — bobbing, weaving, snapping away, denying quiet contemplation. They puzzle no less an art lover than Ann Temkin, the chief curator of painting and sculpture, who has watched the “crazy magnetism” of the painting and her beloved Vincent grow ever since cameras first appeared on phones. “It’s as if taking a photo of a work in a museum means ‘seeing’ it to a viewer, even though someone like me worries that taking the photo replaces seeing it in the slow and thoughtful way I would ideally wish,” Ms. Temkin ruefully concedes at the bustling museum. “And the problem with all the photo-takers is that they make it impossible for someone who wants to do that kind of looking to do so.” […]  As a curator, Ms. Temkin has decided nothing can be done about ravenous phone photographers in museums. “I used to be more judgmental about it, really disapprove,” she says. Lately she sees how audiences at public events watch a big video screen image rather than the actual person in the picture speaking live right there on stage. Something’s happening; she notices celebrity chefs preparing dishes for their photogenic possibilities. She suspects artists are inevitably crafting work with similar nods to the overwhelming social media culture, with all its likes and retweets. “It’s utterly impossible to wrap one’s mind around van Gogh, seeing this going on,” the curator notes affectionately. “Maybe God is good and will let him know he’s beloved,” she says. “But beyond that, he’s not allowed to look,” she advises, protecting Vincent from the madding crowd.

OR THAT…?

[Read more…]

About right…


Artist: Santiago Vecinoa Concept Artist / Illustrator from Montevideo, Uruguay (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)

But I’m starting to believe that this is all madness and that we’re already in way over our heads

IMAGINE IF there were a law decreeing that every citizen had to carry a tracking device and check it five times an hour. This device was to be kept at hand at all times. The law also decreed that you needed to place this device on your bedside table at night, so that it was never more than two feet away from your body, and if you happened to wake up in the middle of the night, then you needed to check it. You had to check it during mealtimes, at sporting events, while watching television. You even needed to sneak a quick peek at it during plays and weddings and funerals. For those unwilling to check their devices at the plays, weddings, and funerals, exceptions would be made—so long as you kept your device on right up until the moment the play, wedding, or funeral was beginning and then turned it on again the second the event was over, checking it as you walked down the aisle toward the exit. Imagine, too, that whenever you went to a concert you weren’t allowed to view the actual concert but instead had to view it through your device, as though every concert were a solar eclipse and you would go blind if you stared at the thing itself. Only if you were holding your device in front of your face and viewing the event on its small screen would you be allowed to experience heightened moments of artistry and life. Such a law would be deemed an insane Orwellian intrusion into our daily freedom, and people would rebel—especially when the law went even further. Imagine that the law decreed that it wasn’t enough to check your machines; you needed to update the world on your activities on not one but several services, posting text, pictures, and links to let everyone know everywhere you went, and everything you ate, and everyone you saw. And when you weren’t posting, the device would be tracking your movements and recording on distant servers where you were, whom you called, and what information you searched for. Of course, these laws aren’t necessary. We do this to ourselves. So we now have to come up with elaborate ways to stop ourselves from engaging in this behavior. There are the restaurant dinners during which everyone puts their devices into the middle of the table, and the first person to reach for hers or his gets stuck with the bill for the whole crowd. There are programs you can buy that allow you to set a timer that keeps you from checking email or using apps or searching the Web for a certain period of time. One of these, in a truly Orwellian turn of phrase, is called Freedom. […]

We also check them too much because we are addicted to them…

We check them because we feel the need…

We check them because we don’t want to miss out. On anything…

I find my little device incredibly seductive…

But I’m starting to believe that this is all madness and that we’re already in way over our heads…

After each one of those tiny dopamine bursts comes a tiny dopamine hangover, a little bit of melancholy as the brain realizes that the thing we crave—to connect—hasn’t really happened at all. It’s like the feeling you get when you anticipate ordering something you love at a restaurant, and do so, and then are told that they just served the last one, and you will need to order something else. A little lift—they have lemon meringue pie—followed by a little fall: not for you. Our technology gives us the simulacrum of a connection but not the real thing.

George Orwell correctly predicted much about our world today.

~ Will Schwalbe, from “1984. Disconnecting.” in Books for a Living


Notes:

Jane’s Summer Vacation (60 sec)


For direct link to CBS Sunday Morning video: Jane’s Summer Vacation

The glowing screens need a gargantuan diet

29. …The glowing screens need a gargantuan diet in order to distract mankind and destroy consciences….

43.  For some years now there has been a constant onslaught of images, lights, and colors that blind man. His interior dwelling is violated by the unhealthy, provocative images of pornography, bestial violence, and all sorts of worldly obscenities that assault purity of heart and infiltrate through the door of sight.

44. The faculty of sight, which ought to see and contemplate the essential things, is turned aside to what is artificial. Our eyes confuse day and night because our whole lives are immersed in a permanent light. In the cities that shine with a thousand lights, our eyes no longer find restful areas of darkness… To a large extent, humanity has lost an awareness of the seriousness of sin…

~ Cardinal Robert Sarah, excerpts from “The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise” (April, 2017).


Smartphone Gif Photo: Grizzly Street

Silence and peace have one and the same heartbeat.

Silence and peace have one and the same heartbeat. In the noise of everyday life there is always a certain agitation that is stirred up in man. Noise is never serene…How right Pascal was when he wrote in his Pensées: “All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own chamber.” On the merely physical level, man can find rest only in silence.

Today, in a highly technological, busy world, how can we find silence? Noise wearies us, and we get the feeling that silence has become an unreachable oasis. How many people are obliged to work in a chaos that distresses and dehumanizes them? Cities have become noisy furnaces in which even nights are not spared the assault of noise. Without noise, postmodern man falls into a dull, insistent uneasiness. He is accustomed to permanent background noise, which sickens yet reassures him. Without noise, man is feverish, lost. Noise gives him security, like a drug on which he has become dependent. With its festive appearance, noise is a whirlwind that avoids facing itself. Agitation becomes a tranquilizer, a sedative, a morphine pump, a sort of reverie, an incoherent dream-world. But this noise is a dangerous, deceptive medicine, a diabolic lie that helps man avoid confronting himself in his interior emptiness. The awakening will necessarily be brutal. [Read more…]

we stare rapt into its bright light

The smartphone is an intimate device; we stare rapt into its bright light and stroke its smooth glass to coax out information and connect with others. It seems designed to help us achieve Westin’s functions of privacy*, to enable emotional release and moments of passive reflection. We cradle it in bed, at dinner, on the toilet. Its pop-up privacy policies are annoying speed bumps in the otherwise instantaneous conjuring of desires. It feels like a private experience, when really it is everything but. How often have you shielded the contents of your screen from a stranger on the subway, or the partner next to you in bed, only to offer up your secrets to the data firm tracking everything you do?

~ Amanda Hess, excerpt from “How Privacy Became a Commodity for the Rich and Powerful” (NY Times, May 9, 2017)


Notes:

Riding Metro North. With William Edward Hickson.

6:16 am to Grand Central.

Train car is packed but Silent.

I’m riding backward, feeling lighter, refreshed, alive. Looking East, now in Daylight Savings Time, it’s a ride in morning light, following months of lurking in darkness. A orange glow lights up the horizon and triggers Cummings: “the / mercy of perfect sunlight after days // of dark, will climb; will blossom: will sing (like / april’s own april and awake’s awake).”  

I can feel all that.

Back to the morning reading.

New thing: Riding + reading = Nausea.  Eyes, knees, shoulders, and now stomach. Middle age creep. Oh, how to be blessed for 50+ years with a cast iron stomach that can be filled with any grade of fuel, and bam, like a light switch, Gone. I’ve become a delicate flower, a petal to be handled with care. Stress? IBS? I softly lick my lower lip and find the sweet remnants of one of 2 glazed, cheese danishes from last night. Who the hell knows. It’s all exceedingly fragile, I’m teetering like a Jenga Tower.

I set the e-reader down, lift my head. Need to stabilize. [Read more…]

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