Wednesday, May 04, 2005

A show about nothing

It's so very gratifying to realize that my generation is going to remembered and characterized by TV shows like the vapid "Friends" and "Seinfeld." I had the pleasure of watching an old rerun of "Gunsmoke" a few days ago. I remember begging to stay up to watch it as a child. It portrays a world where evil intrudes, moral dilemmas ensue, and right prevails in the end - with humor, grace, and a clear statement of what is right and what is wrong. When James Arness looks into the camera, he's looking me in the eye. When Doc Adams provides medical care for everyone, regardless of social status or ability to pay, the lesson is clear.
It is so much about nothing, these days. I guess I'm succumbing to the attitude of my age - squarely "middle-aged" now - seeing an ever-narrowing window of opportunities, combined with a growing desire for safety - it leads to simmering banality (which can actually be very nice with a good pinot grigio and sourdough toast). There was an old Mr. Rogers Neighborhood parody where the gentle man says, "The universe is entropying. Can you say 'Entropy', boys and girls?" I look at the paint peeling off my house, the back deck decaying, calling me to action, and feel unable and unwilling at the same time.
Multi-tasking tends to rob me of the joy of doing, the loss of the sense of time one gets when singularly focused on something. I'm doing one or two or more things, thinking about another 2-500 others as I work. It reaches a point of critical mass, and then something perfectly innocuous occurs, like Emma emptying a shelf full of something onto the floor, and I'm filled with anger at that one thing that sent the whole stage full of spinning plates to come crashing down. Losing one's train of thought can seem calamitous, and it's too easy to pin the blame on the most innocuous of targets. Like the poorly educated part-timer behind the counter at Wendy's who's fellow team member didn't read the instructions and put dill pickles on your Mediterranean Fish Sandwich instead of the bread-and-butter slices you asked for. We're blowing our mental gaskets at the weak points of our day, instead of focusing on the underlying pressure. The result of deferred maintenance, I fear.
It seems like there are those of us that are able to make great strides on a regular basis, but it's hard to point to anyone nearby that is. Part of the underlying pressure is that we're (I'm including you, now) missing the point that much of what we are doing is important - raising kids, keeping clothes, food and shelter coming, mowing the lawn (yes, I still do), making the occasional assymmetrical "thing" out of wood. I don't always "get it", but I can't quite explain the feeling, like I got last night, when Sam asked me to check his homework. A small, yet profound sense of accomplishment. Yet, while I'm doing this, I'm trying to copy a DVD onto my Pocket PC (Why? Because I can, of course), watching TV, thinking about GSA contracts . . . the moment faded much more quickly than it should have, or at least before I wanted it to.
Is it that so much has already been done, we need to make something out of nothing? I can make my own movies, I can record my own music, I can even publish on the internet to a worldwide audience - all things formerly reserved for various versions of the elite, via their intrinsic processes for those with talent and influence to dominate. Is it democracy or dilution? Am I empowered, or enslaved by the crush of information being pushed in my direction from every device imaginable? Yes and no. Several events have proven that information is power; they have also proven that that distorted information can power some pretty ugly machines - can you spell Schiavo? Now everyone can.
So, back to what I was talking about? Oh, that's right, nothing. Never mind.