The cutting edge of chaos

Change is in the air, the seasons are changing, and so must I change. I feel a restless hope for a more satisfying connection and contribution to the world around me which seems so desperately chaotic and on the verge of collapse. Like the people escaping the wildfires, I am compelled to evacuate and rebuild. Yesterday, my wife and I went to a beach on the Oregon coast, a vast and empty expanse of sand partially enveloped in fog mixed with a touch of fire smoke, a place that gently invited me to merge with the uncertainty of a moving shoreline, a dissolving boundary, beyond ordinary limits of thought and awareness, and at least for now, beyond Facebook where I might find unstructured ways of being.

“When we are content and satisfied on the inside of any group, we seem to suffer from a structural indifference. We do not realize that it is largely a belonging system that we have created for ourselves. It is not until we are excluded from a system that we are able to recognize its idolatries, lies, or shadow side. It is the privileged “knowledge of the outsider” that opens up the playing field. People can be personally well-intentioned and sincere, but structurally they cannot comprehend certain things.” ~ Richard Rohr

In 2014, Prince Ea posted a video, “Why I Refuse to Let Technology Control Me” in which he accused Facebook of being an anti-social network and related it to the high speed and compression of information overload. My response at the time was to wonder how important or serious “technological isolation” really is. Does it not depend on what we bring to it, how we use it, what else we do with our lives? Sometimes I have felt truly heart-connected to someone through a simple exchange of text messages. How is that possible? Is it possible that beyond Facebook I might find unstructured connection and belonging?

Today I am mostly convinced that computer technology, artificial intelligence and the internet have distracted us with false substitutes for authentic connection, which cannot be mediated by any whiz-bang interface. I have suspended my Facebook account, which has consumed an enormous amount of my life-energy, for the next 5 weeks as a test of this hypothesis. I want to know how stepping outside that artificially structured network will show me things I’ve not seen before. On November 7, 2020, I will hold a Zoom video conference to share what I may have discovered and hear what others have to say.

My first impulse to move in this direction came to me as a break in the west coast fire smoke conditions allowed me to get out of the house, where we had been mostly in self-quarantine from the Covid-19 pandemic for months. I was planting garlic in the fresh air and sunshine when I felt a giant wave of both gratitude and grief wash over me, leaving me puzzled for some time until I realized I had a love/hate relationship with my computer and needed to break free the habit, let go, launch into the unknown.

The second impulse that sealed my course of action was the sudden insight on the boredom I had been going through. Underneath the fog of inaction was my unconscious story about my unworthiness, and my habitual, fruitless attempts to be validated by reactions to my posts on Facebook. I have attempted in several iterations to alter how I use Facebook, and never been satisfied. Knowing how hooked I had become created a strong commitment to detach.

It takes two to tango, and I think I’ve bumped into my limits of what is possible for me within the corporate-consumer Facebook structure which is deliberately designed to perpetuate confirmation bias. Perhaps I do not allow myself to feel connected, perhaps I am only confirming my own bias, and yet I have seen many comments by people who experience the same struggle. My adventure is calling me to examine my own bias, withdraw from the mood-altering Facebook substance, and experience an alternative reality.

Marshall McLuhan says “Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium”. For McLuhan, it was the medium itself that shaped and controlled “the scale and form of human association and action”.1 I believe my best source for breaking my habitual thought patterns of seeking validation has to be outside Facebook.

We shape the tools, and the tools shape us.
What tool builds social cohesion?

I would like to use my new free time to finish a wood-block for rice-paper prints, a project that I abandoned many years ago. It will print a saying from Chuang Tzu, “All the fish needs is to get lost in water, all man needs is to get lost in TAO.” I hope to enjoy my experience of being lost.


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