Are your distractions relative?
(No. 122) Have you finally figured out what to do with your life? Here's an idea.
Maybe books are the problem
You think TikTok is a problem? Turns out that media has been battling for our limited attention spans for eons. In the first century AD, Seneca the Younger freaked out about a new technology that was ruining his ability to focus. “The multitude of books is a distraction,” he lamented. No, I did not find this info while scrolling through #healthyaging TikTok. I found it in Aeon magazine.
I can’t stop thinking about this
Last night I saw Kate, a one woman show by Kate Berlant. The show was super meta, with her repeatedly referencing her various “selves.” I laughed often and deeply. Before last night, I wasn’t familiar with Berlant’s work. I went because I’m working on a one-person show myself, and I’m trying to understand what makes these performances work. Her show taught me a lot about the use of video, scrims and glitter. I also saw that her level of artifice — she barely connected on any level that wasn’t cynical, ironic or meta — was not anything I’d like to mimic.
As I age, authenticity becomes more important to me. I had a sense, in my twenties, that I would follow paths until I discovered the destination. Well, here I am, 40 years later, and I realize that I’m arriving at the end of my search, and the beginning of a new journey — towards my true self.
I want so much to censor myself here. To make a joke about older people who suddenly go new age. But I won’t, because I truly believe in this search. My one person show takes place on a long road trip I made through America in 2020, during the early months of the pandemic. But the subject is my family — my three kids, my two ex-wives, my parents and ancestors, and my dogs, Kolya, Toby, Jake, Ruby, Elvis, Alice and Gambel (the only remaining dog) — and what I learned about them by driving alone in a pickup for 30,000 miles talking to people about how the virus was affecting them. It mirrors a book I’ve written, which my agent is shopping to editors. It’s a story I can’t stop thinking about.
I’ve titled the book “An American Family.” The name duplicates (though wasn’t inspired by) the first reality TV show ever made, in 1973. In that series, which I remember watching every week when I was 15, an upper class Santa Barbara, California family consents to having documentary cameras follow them 24/7. (It’s impossible to find more than brief snippets of this show online. What a loss to our culture.) Over the course of a year, the family disintegrates, with the parents divorcing and kids falling into various pursuits of music, sex, liberation, and careers. I was riveted, as my family had already disintegrated, in the 70s style.
My version of An American Family is not about disintegration. It’s about integration, acceptance and understanding of the violence, chaos and casual destruction that was part of my life well into adulthood. (Just one part, for those of you who are worried or doubting.) My story is about the understanding that comes with age. And the need I have to continue to understand our world and my place in it.
In this excerpt (there are very few available online) from An American Family, Pat Loud and her son Lance Loud discuss his future, or lack thereof.
Sparkling lights, nutrient IV’s, workouts and a gadzillion supplement pills every day.
This buff dude reportedly spends two million dollars a year to stay young. He’s in great shape, but online commenters keep telling him to get a new face. Here’s a morning in the life of a guy who will not live forever, or get any respect, no matter what he eats, does or thinks.
Last week I moved my illustrated novel, The Lost City of Desire, to a new newsletter called Everlands. You can read my long-form fiction and nonfiction and thoughts about the writer’s life here. Please subscribe and share this brand new publication.
Thinking about the big questions I stumbled on a book "The Midnight Library" by Haig . Not the most brillant writing... but opens up some huge concepts . Every year, every day, maybe even every moment, you take a fork in the road of your life that may (probably) change its course. What if you had chosen different at each fork? The book follows the journey of a 35 year old, unsatifyed with her current life, to a purgatory 'tween life and death where she gets to plop into other lives she could have had ... ellen.