A little past dusk I came home to an empty home devoid of my family. More startling was the strange silence, no barking or whining, no scratching at the door, no dog. It seems as of late he has taken to slipping out of his collar and wondering off. We live on a respectable enough piece of land and our dog being of the older more venerated variety this seems to raise little concern. But it is a pattern of behavior that I find unsettling. The desire to be alone is an impulse I seem to share with my dog. Although his motivations I fear are different then mine. It is not uncommon for an old dog to wonder away in the twilight of life in order to die quietly away from his family. An old pack instinct to remove one self from the pack to eliminate and burden that might be placed on the greater whole. In death it would seem all beings want to be alone. It seems to some extent I would rather be alone in life.
We live in a different world. I watched a film the other day called the Social Network, a film that many of us probably have at the least seen a preview for. It’s the story of the creation of Facebook. Facebook, Blogger, MySpace, Live Journal, etc. are fast becoming the new focal point for literary self-reflection for my generation and possibly future generations to come. John Franzen explores the death of the novel. He illustrates quite well its increasing inability to maintain pace with a culture whose references and lingo change even faster then the 24-hour cable news machines can produce their own select brands of populist propaganda. What then is a novel today? Is it a bit of entertaining fiction spammed across a million kindles? Is it a base for the next trilogy of Hollywood blockbusters? Is their any place for a novel as social commentary? Or can it still hope to act as a repository of what it means to be human, in the sense that the classic literature highlighted by Adler and Bloom once was.
I’ve transgressed my original point about being alone. Or have I? The novel, the treatise, the essay, all of these used to fill the moments in between the lives of individuals. We used to read newspapers in the morning or novels at night when there was nothing on TV. Now there are a thousand cable channels, You Tube, hulu, blogs, and Facebook to fill our empty moments. Unlike their black and white printed predecessors these forms of literature do not exist in isolation. They do not keep the ever plaguing ‘other’ at a distance. In this new world we are always interacting, we are always in some way an object for someone else to view, record, and comment on. And it dose not stop there. At the beginning of this paragraph I typed the word ‘transgressed.’ Being unsure of its correct use I turned to Google for a definition, next I was checking a reference I made in an earlier blog post, and then responding to a Facebook comment post… At other points in my life this post would not have been finished. But blogging is no longer a form of expression where I seek connections with the outside world. Blogging has taken a turn towards rebellion.
Ginsberg claimed in the 60’s that young people would never sell out and go back to the ways of ‘their collaborating fathers.’ Such a path had been barred to them by beating and arrests, by a government bent of repressing one anti-war protest after another. But in a world with out the draft my generation has adopted war as a carrier path. Rebellion in the form of a novel would seem outlandish now. Bloom was proven right by a school system which now abandons all forms of literature for a long serious of text books packed with censored excerpts of what once was literature all in the name of meeting some government standard of achievement. Rebellion now for me is holding up the real copy of Huck Finn and retreating ever further out of the public realm and into this blog.
I’ve come to understand in some small way what Franzen was talking about. The ‘public’ world no longer exists not because of a loss of privacy but because of a loss of separation. I see this in customers who want nothing more then to be left alone by sales clerks armed with a laundry list of promotions, surveys, and credit card applications. Politicians who never leave the campaign trials adopting one euphemism after another in order to constantly engage their book-buying constituents. And even college students who perpetually show up on campus under dressed, under read, and undeterred by the failures of their on academic system. At any point who could expect them to care. Soon none of these people will have read any of the great canons of western literature as we have already started to drive out all traces of the intellectual from our schools and government. Soon the simple act of setting down at home, turning off the TV, and opening a blank work processor page will be the purest form of rebellion.
“The person who gets lost in possibility soars with the boldness of despair; but the person for whom all has become necessary strains his back on life…” I have found my self-embracing that sickness on to death the philosopher spoke of. Despair is in itself a strange thing; it is as addictive as heroin and twice as repulsive. Yet in form and content it drives an individual to create even in the darkest of worlds. Our dog will one day go off to die. I have already gone off to the much longer death that is the mediocrity of the world of the electron and the switch. As for my generation… Wherefore should we stand in the plague of custom, and permit the curiosity of nations to deprive us… Why are we defined only as a generation of father less bastards... When our dimensions are as well compact, our minds as generous…. Or would such mindless claims make us sound just like our fathers? Where have they gone and upon what dawn shall they return.