Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Cartoonist James Sturm--whose work I admire a great deal--has been writing a column for Slate about not using the internet for four months. To be frank, it isn't the most interesting thing I've ever read, but I did find myself nodding emphatically at this passage:
In the two months since I've been unplugged, I have been experiencing more and more moments of synchronicity--coincidental events that seem to be meaningfully related. Today, after finishing the first phase of a graphic-novel project that is based on the life of a fictional member of the Weather Underground, I received in the mail an unsolicited copy of a graphic novel about teaching written by William Ayers. Earlier in the week, at the exact moment I started working on a drawing of a monkey (see above), Michael Chabon started talking about Planet of the Apes--I was listening to his audio book Manhood for Amateurs. I know this type of magical thinking is easily dismissed, but I keep having moments like this. So how do I explain it? Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you're waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube.
When I was younger these kinds of moments really struck me. They were often thrilling or wonder-inducing, but for someone who wasn't raised within any religious tradition and was never instructed to believe in God, they were also slightly disconcerting: brief intimations that perhaps the cosmos wasn't entirely random after all; benevolent nudges from a God who would be wrathful if I died having ignored all these really obvious signs of his hand at work. As my unbending atheism was tempered by skepticism about human claims to knowledge and a desire to be more open-minded,
I began to cherish synchronicity and I have missed its absence from my adult life. If I'd thought about it, I would probably have blamed its disappearance on the shrinking of one's imaginative possibilities for the world that accompanies adulthood, but I think Sturm is on to something here.

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