Paperback Editor #1

I published The Intimacy of Communication last year. As I read through the introduction recently, I found things I wanted to change or eliminate. Below you will find the revised version of the intro, followed by the original. A writer is never done with a book; he or she simply runs out of time.

Introduction: World Processor (Revised 2017)

I started a blog in 2008 called Writing Is Knowing. A year later it became Sharp Left Turns. My purpose has remained the same: to explore complex ideas with passion and wonder. The Intimacy of Communication, a collection of fifty-eight revised Sharp Left Turns posts organized thematically, is an extension of that mission.

The phrase “writing is knowing” comes from a composition theory course I took during my senior year at Elmhurst College. My professor argued that writing is not merely a matter of sharing information, but a vehicle for the creation of new ideas. Writing is a moral endeavor, an attempt to process the world.

I’ve developed several themes on my blog, including the notion of authentic communication. I define authentic communication as two or more people engaged in meaningful, fully present, device-free conversation. It involves empathy and mutual recognition that texting fails to provide.

How did my smartphone become an object of desire? When does anxiety at the thought of putting down my tablet constitute an attachment disorder?

Is there space for intimacy in a hyper-connected world?

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard wrote about the simulated nature of reality in our image-driven global society. We’ve mastered our environment through the magic of technology, but the efficiency of machines threatens to lull humanity to sleep. Later in his career Baudrillard sided with “the evil genie of the object” in an ironic quest to chart the demise of human agency. My favorite Baudrillard book, The Ecstasy of Communication, inspired the title of this book.

Baudrillard has provided intellectual refuge in my darkest moments. And there are many dark moments. I was diagnosed with depression twenty years ago, as a high school sophomore. Although some symptoms vary depending on my body’s reaction to stress, there’s a persistent fog in my eye, a twitch in my shadow when I’m perfectly still. The constant worrying, excessive guilt, debilitating self-doubt—my depression is a life-threatening illness. Even on my best days it dreams up new ways to bring me down.

Depression is a spiritual affliction. A dis-ease of the soul. Medication and therapy are part of a dynamic, lifelong healing process that also requires patience and surrendering control. Recovery is a moment-to-moment battle, and I commend survivors with wounds both seen and unseen for continuing to fight. I hope my story challenges misconceptions about mental illness and encourages others to speak their truths.

Can a blog support authentic communication? Can a book? Addressing subjects like psychology, politics and philosophy may sound like an esoteric exercise, but a contemplative approach to life has real-world implications. Attuned to the frequency of instant messages, we must consider our words carefully. Words mean more than we know. They break our bones like sticks and stones. But even at their most poetic, in the service of profound truths, words can’t account for love or kindness, or quantify the soul.

Introduction: World Processor (Original 2016)

“If anything, I’m a metaphysician, perhaps a moralist, but certainly not a sociologist.”
—Jean Baudrillard

I started a blog in 2008 called Writing is Knowing. A year later it became Sharp Left Turns. My purpose has remained the same: to explore complex ideas with passion and wonder. The Intimacy of Communication, a collection of fifty-eight revised Sharp Left Turns posts organized thematically, is an extension of that mission.

The phrase “writing is knowing” comes from a composition theory course I took during my senior year at Elmhurst College. My professor argued that writing is not merely a matter of sharing information, but a vehicle for the creation of new ideas. Writing is a moral endeavor, an attempt to process the world.

I’ve developed several themes on my blog, including the notion of authentic communication. I define authentic communication as two or more people engaged in meaningful, fully present, device-free conversation. It involves empathy and mutual recognition that texting fails to provide.

How did my smartphone become an object of desire? When does anxiety at the thought of putting down my tablet constitute an attachment disorder?

Is there space for intimacy in a hyper-connected world?

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) shared my concerns. He wrote about the simulated nature of reality in an image-driven global society. We’ve mastered our environment through the magic of technology, but the efficiency of machines threatens to lull humanity to sleep.

Later in his career Baudrillard sided with “the evil genie of the object” in an ironic quest to chart the demise of human agency. One of my favorite Baudrillard books, The Ecstasy of Communication, inspired the title of this book.

Baudrillard was brilliant, which is to say he was nuts. Trained as a sociologist, Baudrillard traversed multiple fields: philosophy, politics, psychology, literature, semiotics. He’s provided intellectual refuge in my darkest moments.

And there are many dark moments. I was diagnosed with depression over twenty years ago, as a high school sophomore. Although some symptoms vary depending on my body’s reaction to stress, there’s a persistent fog in my eye, a twitch in my shadow when I’m perfectly still. The constant worrying, excessive guilt, debilitating self-doubt—my depression is a life-threatening illness. Even on my best days, in the most serene or quiet moments, it’s dreaming up new ways to bring me down.

Depression is a spiritual affliction. A dis-ease of the soul. Medication and therapy are part of a dynamic, lifelong healing process that also requires patience and surrendering control. Recovery is a moment-to-moment battle, and I commend survivors with wounds both seen and unseen for continuing to fight. I hope my story helps break the stigma surrounding mental illness and encourages others to speak their truths.

Blogging helps me cope when I’m open about my struggles. New posts serve as preemptive strikes against future distress, and the act of sharing combats an impulse to isolate. This book ups the ante. It’s a challenge to be vulnerable in a different format.

Can a blog support authentic communication? Can a book? Addressing subjects like psychology, politics and philosophy may sound like an esoteric exercise, but a contemplative approach to life has real-world implications. Attuned to the frequency of instant messages, we must consider our words carefully. Words mean more than we imagine, and contrary to the old playground adage, they can hurt us more than sticks and stones. But even at their most poetic, in the service of profound truths, words can’t account for love or kindness, or quantify the soul.

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1 Comment

Filed under Philosophy

One response to “Paperback Editor #1

  1. Tom Trebswether

    Yes a book can be communication. Yes all of us deal with our doubts and insecurities. Yes most of the time happiness is elusive. Now that I am older and have been with my wife Jean a long time I have found happiness. Yes I still struggle with my doubts and insecurities. I think if you can don’t let that consume your life for the most part you will be happy. Nobody ever told me that life would be easy or enjoyable. In the U.S. Constitution we are guaranteed the rights of “Life, Liberty and The Pursuit Of Happiness”. This doesn’t imply that we will be happy but we have the right to pursue that goal.

    Like

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