Commonplace

“…I believe we may be actually closer and more truly communicating in letters than when talking. The vertical connection downwards and inwards, each on his solitary own, may be making a connection of souls through imagination, a connection that does not necessarily happen in live conversation or on the telephone. I am saying… that an interview does not have to take place ‘in person.’

“ Now, if this be so, or enough ‘so’ to be worth exploring, then the immense hypercommunication industry of portable phone and cellular phone, satellite dish and call waiting, of fax, beeper, modem, answering filters, and voice-activated recorders—all those oyster shell-colored, plastic-covered chip devices that turn the citizen into hacker, plugged into everyone everywhere—“I am become I am accessible”—does not, repeat, not put an end to my aloneness but rather intensifies it.

“If I must be networked in order to be, then on my own I am out of the loop, out of communication, null and void, nowhere. I can’t be reached. If to be means to be reachable, then in order to be I must stay networked. Result: the contemporary syndrome, communication addiction.

“One of the acute tensions of daily life strikes when the phone rings and you don’t want to answer. Do you, Michael, let the phone ring and not pick it up? My daughter does. Do you put on your answering machine, call into your answering service, before going out the door so as not to miss—miss what, actually? What are we afraid of missing? The telephone ads recognize the right tie between loneliness and phoning. ‘Reach out and touch someone’ reminds me how alone I am when not in touch. The more I feel alone, the more I phone; the more I phone, the more I am aware I am alone. A vicious feedback circle.”

—Dr. James Hillman, We’ve Had A Hundred Years of Psychotherapy, and the World’s Getting Worse (1992)

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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