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Chronicle

On Being Extremely Online

Many folks find social media to be overwhelming. It’s a constant barrage of sensory inputs. It’s not necessarily the most pleasant unless, like me, you live for large information loads. It provides me an emotional comfort get data points. One of the few things I could do when sick was scroll Twitter and read news (longer form not so much) so I have become as they say “extremely online”

I follow shifts in opinion like a rancher can sense a change in the winds. Being extremely online skews your politics in some ways. I can recite minutia in history and policy. Which makes it harder to form firm opinions. It’s all simply too nuanced to be partisan. Then I speak to family members who are dead sure of their position who can’t answer a basic question about how they decided to hold the opinion. It’s not so much that they are low information voters so much as I’m a saturated voter. If a pollster tried to talk to me they couldn’t place me. Which is how I ended up being the token white conservative that voted for Clinton that Frank Luntz brought to Oprah. So being a saturated voter does have its perks.

This saturation effect isn’t just true for politics. I swim in economic data. I follow petty feuds and undercurrents in venture capital. I have entire magazine mastheads committed to memory. I know what stories writers wrote a decade ago. I probably know CV of some editors better they they know themselves.

This also makes it relatively easy for me to move between different types of communities. Code switching isn’t just for race. Online it can be the difference between getting ratio’d or being promoted. And thanks to the constant scrolling and consumption I can talk just as easily to size proud chronic disease communities as I can the swol bros who insist being jacked is a moral authority. Which I find to be genuinely additive to my life. Diversity of opinion makes you smarter. It makes you kinder.

And holy shit does being in the information flow of diverse communities give you an edge. My favorite thing to do on Twitter is to ask someone to explain a controversy or event and nine times out of ten I get a nuanced thoughtful answer…from the source. Just this week I was feeling overwhelmed trying to parse the Bret Weinstein controversy at Evergreen college. It’s one of the original culture war battles on campus but I’ve never understood it. Media was intense and wedded to their priors. I couldn’t make heads or trails of it. So I asked. And within hours Bret himself took the time to point me towards sources so I could become informed. I still don’t know exactly how I feel about it but I do know if you seek in good faith the internet will provide. If you can find a way to intake more media and don’t let it overwhelm you being extremely online will make your life significantly better. Or it will melt your brain. No guarantees.

Media: In which the venerable conservative George Will loses his shit on the venal craven fuck nuts that are senators Hawley and Cruz. I also reread the interview I mentioned above with Oprah and I have to say I was spot on in my predictions.

Julie Fredrickson being interviewed by Oprah Winfrey in 2016 about the election of Trump.

Food: I was out of pour over coffee so I acquired a latte from Spruce Confections. Ok I’ll also admit I got a ham and cheese croissant too. We then made a trip to Costco and acquired quite a bit of meat and vegetables so I don’t repeat that nonsense too often.

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Chronicle

Time Rich But Energy Poor

I’ve got nothing but time. It’s been two years since I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that took my ability to walk and work. Thankfully only for a time. I’m on other side mostly which has afforded me a chance at introspection on the experience of living with all the time in the world but none of the energy to live it. When you are busy you have fantasies about time. The freedom it will afford you. What you will do with it. Canceling a plan is a delicious pleasure. You crave free time. Which is a misnomer really. Nothing about time is ever free. It’s the most expensive commodity we have. And you can’t really buy more.

So it’s an an odd sensation going from being busy to have total control over your time. It’s being wealthy in the truest sense. I’m a time billionaire. I have most of my life ahead of me and no real claims on my time. But when I was working on recovery I found that despite having no schedule or obligation I couldn’t make any use of my time. I was like the bibliophile Henry Bemis in Twilight Zone who is stranded in a library after a nuclear apocalypse but breaks his glasses before he can even crack a book. He had all the time in the world but no way to spend it. It’s a heartbreaking realization.

For the first time in my life I answered to no one. I spent my day in bed. But not because I wanted to. Because I couldn’t get myself out of bed. People would ask me well how do you spend your time? “If I were you I’d binge watch television or catch up on all the great works of literature.” I’d try to be polite about it but I was too tired to hold my head up on a pillow and follow a plot. My mind was too foggy and slow to take in insights. I lay in bed in a perpetual twilight. Barely cogent. Like Henry Bemis just as I thought I would have all the time in the world human frailty intervened. Without his glasses he couldn’t read. Without my health I couldn’t think. And like Henry my greatest pleasure was ripped away.

Unlike Henry Bemis I got better. We will never know if he found another pair of reading glasses in his bombed out world. I like to think he did. Maybe he wandered stumbling for miles and found an optometrist store with just the right prescription.

A new section I’ll add to each day with some media and consumables I found interesting.

Cosmetics: I’ve recently become diligent about applying vitamin C as a skin serum and my face has never looked better. I use this Superdose from Beauty Pie.

Media: New York Magazine is laundering the ZeroHedge conspiracy that the virus is escaped from a lab. So that’s fun to see come full circle to media legitimacy. Zero Hedge walked so NY Mag could run?

Food: I ate pulled pork from West End Tavern in Boulder.

Clothing: For my own amusement I wore a pair of pink sweatpants while taking my daily hike.

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Chronicle

The Sickness Unto Wokeness

Everyone has their own cross to bear. You never know what suffering someone is carrying inside. Platitudes designed to increase empathy towards the other are a common linguistic trope. Humans need reminding of our essential condition to keep us from holding others to higher standards than we hold for ourselves.

I think about empathy a lot and the way we often struggle to extend it towards others, as I live with a chronic disease. When pain is a constant companion it’s easy to demand that others see our full humanity. Even when at the bottom of our own well of suffering, we struggle to extend the same kindness. If anything it is because we often live without the light of an easy existence we are willing to do more to accommodate another human soul. Because the thing about regular reminders of human frailty? It works. Slowly those with challenges do become more attuned to the struggles of their fellow man. Their heart softens when reminded that others suffer as they do.

Because the true blessing of disease in all its forms is the persistent reminder it provides to cut your fellow man some fucking slack. Someone blocks you online? They must be fighting their own hardest battle. A stranger is an asshole to you for no reason? You don’t know what is going on in their heart. Those of us that live with chronic diseases and disability have a special superpower that short circuits the tendency towards cynicism. Having uncharitable thoughts towards a friend who is chronically late or unreliable is almost impossible when you too fight for the normalcy of consistency and timeliness, as a disease flare can occur at random. We aren’t saints but we know human frailty is no sin.

I’ve long thought that anyone with significant disadvantages in life, like a chronic disease, is more likely to be sympathetic to a gentler, kinder set of societal conditions. We aren’t all leftist or committed to equity work. Hell I’m a libertarian. But the chronic disease community has more than its fair share of people who believe in social safety nets and the role of government in protecting its citizens. And the tendency to police for ableism can be sharp. Screeds toward self reliance or even off hand jokes about the morality of sickness just don’t land for chronic disease patients. And why wouldn’t it? Asking for the golden rule seems reasonable. It’s a bare minimum.

All this is to say I’m more likely to empathize with the social justice warrior set than those who are convinced it will be the downfall of civilization. Is it irritating to always be reminded of the multitudes of the human conditions and the identities that are built from suffering? Sure. Do people abuse the hierarchy of perceived victimhood for personal gain? That is as American as apple pie. But we are engaged in a constant existential battle to get ourselves out from the bottom of the hierarchy heap. The churning inhumanity of systems beyond our control makes us more attuned to hypocrisy. It makes us less rigid about opportunity, access and outcomes. We can see someone suffering and realize “there but for the Grace of God go I.” I’ll not defend the byproducts of a polarized society. I’ll will defend extending an extra beat of human kindness in your journey.

So the next time you find yourself tempted to be snide about an activist and the language they use remember me before you let less complaints about the softness or stupidity of woke society. Because what most of us are asking for is a reasonable accommodation of our humanity. You know me to be a good faith person. I’m asking that you approach me with the empathy and kindness that comes from being genuinely caring about the plight of someone you know. That’s what being woke is; empathy. And if someone you respect asks for it you grant it.

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Chronicle

The First Hurdle

Tossing one offs is much easier for me. Editing is a misery. I constantly second guess my wording and narrative when I am building on a thesis. But letting lose a good pun of stream of consciousness rebuilds my willpower. I find it easy and restorative. I suspect pith and story telling are the equivalent of introversion vs extroversion. You can develop the skills for either but you’ve got an innate preference for one or the other. In my case I crush a cocktail party and can write terrific essays but I’d prefer to be in the company of a few close friends and keep my writing away from the red pen.

I’m unclear if this is a function of insecurity. I never worry about holding my own in a conversation even with the most qualified and demonstrably brilliant. Sometimes to my detriment as I’ll make a ridiculous joke that undermines someone’s authority or credentials but once it’s out the door I don’t dwell on it. I move on and find I’m generally forgiven. But if I’m given the chance to refine and revise I’ll dwell on it endlessly. I’m constantly finding poor phrasing and agonizing that I could have found a clearer way to make my point.

This is all a long winded way of saying that on my second day of writing long form content in 2021 I’m already struggling. I’ve got dozens of topics I’d like to delve into but I spent the entire day being so worked up about making a coherent point that I ended up not writing anything. But I did write a half dozen good tweets. Let’s hope by exercising the muscle of putting this into long form that tomorrow I’ll actually make a decent point.