Monday, March 2, 2015

Notes on Excitement

Convergent experiences had me pondering “excitement” this morning. The pondering began the moment I cried an inward “Whoa, there! Let’s calm down.” The excitement actually began around 1:03 am last night when one of our e-mail accounts began to misbehave again. That account goes all the way back to the stone age of the Internet. Hence it rests now on some history in which Yahoo, Southwestern Bell Corporation, then SBC Global, then AT&T, the parent of all, and Uverse, which is some kind of ill-behaved youngest son of AT&T, all bore, and, indeed, still bear a responsibility. Last night nothing worked—and my longish “chat” with AT&T brought no helpful resolution. This morning (surprise but yet, also, no surprise), the unstoppable force had somehow managed to move the immovable object; the defective e-mail account now acted as if nothing had happened (except our sleeping late). But, hey, just give it time. No shortage of excitement around here.

Mornings are also “paper” times—another occasion for excitement. Will the paper have been thrown? In these exciting times our papers, which include the Detroit News, Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times—are delivered by three different route operators; no single carrier ever just brings one. The reason for that is that the giants of the media make use of the lowest-cost ways of getting their paper to our door, using different carriers on different days. Generally it all works well, but now and then, say once a month, the Thursday paper gets delivered on Friday or no paper comes at all. Therefore the trip out to the drive, partially blocked from view by the car, is a case of excitement rising. Will there be a paper? If not, agitation. But if the paper is there, the agitation’s just postponed. Because reading the paper brings new negative emotions caused by content that never pleases; my critical faculties turn that displeasure into a feeling of my own superiority (If I ran that paper, that crap wouldn’t be there!). But feelings of superiority on the cheap are, well, not exactly helpful in polishing my own humanity…

The biological function of excitement is to induce some things to attract, some things to repel us. Very effective. The institutionalization of this excitement is also a method of drawing customers to anything and everything. The best kind of excitement is one which threatens—but not us personally. Doom and gloom—but no need to start grabbing the family papers. We can just watch people staring at burned down homes where their papers have all just vanished. A feeling of superiority arises? Perhaps not—or we don’t allow it. Most of us think—there but for the grace of God go I.

In nature, to be sure, excitements of the sort that literally clog the media (everything is breaking news) are relatively infrequent. But in communities addicted to the media, excitement is constant. That, in turn, produces a strange sort of continuous state that distorts reality. So, indeed. Whoa there! Let’s calm down. Boredom, it turns out, is a highly desirable state. It releases the attention which, if effort is made to direct it, may come to be focused on that which really matters. Like making the bed. Or mopping all that salt off the tiles by the entrance…

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