Driftwood

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I can’t think too good right now.

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When life starts getting difficult to face, it’s a natural tendency to try to section off a bite-sized chunk of self-destruction, to burn a piece of ourselves in effigy. Destroy a piece of your life instead of sacrificing it all to the void. It’s not good for you, really, but pressure needs to find its own way out, We drill the holes in our skulls so that our brains don’t squeeze themselves to death, like barber surgeons of antiquity.

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If you say something off the top of your head, we know which ideas bubble to the top most readily. Your most spontaneous moments, those which were meant to be superficial, are so revealing.

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And when you’re not listening too closely, music sounds like the rhythms of speech, and we can pretend by listening to it that the mp3s we play are the murmuring of our friends who never were and our family who are far away talking in the next room over, or the next, or the next…

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“And over there you’ll see Neighborly Park…”

“Oh, how nice!”

“Named after Mayor Bill Neighborly…”

“Oh, I see, I thought it was just –”

“Who, as I’m sure you’ve heard, turned out to be that serial killer they were looking for…”

“Um –”

“They’re trying to get it renamed, but you know how it is. Politics.”

“Haha, yeah, well –”

“Well, that and, you know, there’s still a couple of bodies they’re searching for, so….”

“…”

“It’s a lovely park though, isn’t it?”

“Well, I have a lot of other places to look at today, so thanks for showing me around.”

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By placing elements next to each other, the artist implies a relationship of some sort between them. This is juxtaposition. There may be no known relationship between the components, they may be random, but the artist chose them and placed them next to each other.

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The thing is, I did it to myself. I really have no one else to blame. I’ve cultivated my isolation over many years: With intent at first, and habitually afterwards. I am not approachable. I am friendly when spoken to, but offer very little conversational momentum, so people find it difficult to maintain contact with me and eventually move on.

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It’s a controlled burn. We start the fires now so that they will be manageable, so that they won’t build into towering infernos later, during dry seasons. We’re too polite to notice out loud the conflagration of our peers, but silently we worry who actually set their fires.

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As time erodes the friendships by which I have customarily anchored myself, I need to find other points of contact lest I drift away. I just don’t know where to start.

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I hate writing about myself. I feel like I should be able to put together something interesting without getting all confessional. It feels like cheating. It feels egotistical, to believe that I’m so interesting that people are interested in my my petty personal insights.

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How am I supposed to talk to a person I don’t know? How am I supposed to get to know a person without talking to them?

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Nothing is random in art. Someone always chooses. And we, the audience, perceive that choice, and we feel intimacy, we feel as though we know something about the artist.

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It feels unprofessional to experiment. It feels like I’m sabotaging my final product so that I can try something self-indulgent and new.

How destructive the concept of ‘professionalism’ is!

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I enjoyed Louis CK’s bit about smart phones, socialization, and loneliness, but I worried even as I watched it that it would be misappropriated and misinterpreted. This was not a rant about how our lives are derailed by social media, another Luddite diatribe against the information age or against entitled youth, though that seems to be the way many frame it.

There were two points: First, that giving children a device which allows them to communicate facelessly at an age when they’re still learning how to communicate and learning what it means to do so is probably unwise. Second, that we frequently use these devices to distract ourselves from our emotional state when we don’t actually need to, when we would perhaps be better served by facing what we’re made of.

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Social prosthetics, placed where real friends are supposed to go in the mind. Some people use television, some people read, some people play games. The personalities are the key component, someone to get to know even when there’s no one around, someone to get to understand even if they’re a construct. Fiction didn’t begin as a social prosthetic, as a vaccination against loneliness, but that may be the role it plays in our lives now.

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Some of us need modern communications to find our friends and to stay in contact. That is fine. Some of us lead difficult lives and desperately need the relief that communications can bring. That is fine. I do believe that, more often than not, these devices improve people’s lives. But there comes a point, and this point is different for everyone, where what you do becomes more important than who you are – when maintaining constant contact with others, to maintain a constant flow of communication, just to stave off fear of boredom, of loneliness, of mortality, begins to become nothing but another set of chains.

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I also know, for writers, in the end, our selves are all we have to give. All we can do is vomit bits of our essence onto the page, and nudge those bits around into the most pleasing shapes we can manage, and hope that’s good enough.

It may never be good enough for me.

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There are no endings. The story stops, but everything beneath it, everything that made it, goes on. The ship is destroyed, but the ocean keeps moving, and as it does it claims the timbers and the sailors that once believed they were above it.

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