Inspection- Absence Makes the Mind…

by Ken Carman

 The old cliché’ about absence making the heart grow fonder is, of course, nonsense. It can, or absence can make things far worse: depends on the relationship, depends on the Inspectionindividuals; depends on those who consider themselves ‘friends.’ “Friends” may not offer the best advice or the best examples. And I suspect absence sometimes makes the metaphorical heart, and not so metaphorical mind, shrink.
 There’s an absence these days of actual conversations, in depth discussion, complex thought, and an ability to even read communications, that helps all strive towards a mutual goal. I should have realized back in my old Communications classes when the profs said the ways we connect are becoming faster and shorter they were also becoming more simplistic… sometimes idiotically so. This is why politics and debate have often come down to the kind of framing that mimics cavemen’s “UGH”‘s and “GLOOG”‘S. They all translate into “You is stupid.” “No, YOU be stupid.”
 I must admit, since I graduated college in 76, this final realization came very slowly. Now it’s 42 years and a lot of ever increasing miscommunications later.
 The full, wide eyed, impact of this slow awakening came to me recently when I was talking to a local. I’m in the Adirondacks now and the gentleman I was talking to graduated Town of Webb too, only 2010. I graduated 1972. I remember as I slowly started to moving here, in the very late 60s, at first I stayed with my cousins, then Grandma Ritz and the VanAtwerps. Mutual friend Dan, Cousin Tom and I would wander the streets of Old Forge at night. Sometimes we go up to the Pied Piper; local ice cream joint, that had inside dining at the time. But mostly we’d meet with casual friends, like Ernie, and chat.
 The conversations would make many E-mails seem overly simplistic.
 Even the way we called each other involved more actual contact than most communication these days. We were one of the last places in the country that got dialup. That means you spoke with the operator before you were sent on to your destination.
 Last night was a quiet night. The tourists were mostly gone. After a movie at the marvelous Strand ($7 and no extra cost for 3D!) I drove through town to buy some food for a short one day trip tomorrow to our other place in Beaver River. Old Forge was lit up beautifully: far better than it was back then, but one thing was missing; roaming bands of teens chatting, laughing, maybe smoking cigarettes or, yes, a few up to some kind of hijinks. Vandalism and such were far less frequent than our parents or the police thought. The sheer number of teens out and about far, far outweighed the precious few who caused trouble. But take one very tiny town, nothing to do and, yes, trouble could happen.
 Where were the bands of teens I remember? Then I realized: probably watching cable or satellite TV; more likely texting, tweeting, noses glued to something akin to what we used to call PDAs a few micro centuries ago. Life has become so inward, self absorbed. Even some parents too: I can’t count the number of restaurants I’ve been to where every member of the family has been swallowed by digitization. I’ve even seen kids wanting to have a conversation and the parent is texting, tweeting…
 Shame.
 I’m sure my old man-itits is sneaking out between these words, but now we’re down to tweets and texts I fear we hardly know each other. What’s next, Emoji-fi where all we use is cutesy little images? Communication, if one dare call any of these that, seems to be tunneling down to little more than giggles, grunts and groans, as the train of stupidity called Idiocracy is speeding up and coming right at us. Our inability to see connections between each other leaves us feeling empty; drowning, gasping for air, as those who envision new tech are looking to make the ice thicker, the holes fewer. When everything is boiled down to less than a brief illiterate sentence we can hardly call that “communication.”
 Every year I run a homebrew competition in Old Forge which requires tying people together. Once I got everything set up this year I sent out an E-mail to all. It was, at best, a few paragraphs long, and not very long paragraphs. The young’uns on my list admitted they never read the E-mails using some variation of, “I don’t read Es: they’re too long.”
 How do folks get through school these days? Do teachers and professors accept “BTW,” “LOL” on term papers? Are they allowed to answer quizzes with emojis? God’s chin on an over salted cracker I hope not. No wonder we live in a highly charged, jingoistic, partisan jungle these days. No wonder those who accuse others of being ‘snowflakes’ have no problem with their own hyperbolic over reactions.
 Dang. There I go using ‘them there’ big words again.
 It’s so much easier to appeal to more people these days if you boil it down to an Idiocracy-like level.
 If I find any solace it’s that every generation when they’re young is told over and over that how they do things will be the end of humanity. For my generation it was music, drugs and ‘free love.’ They always over generalize: ignoring the brilliant, the talented, the adaptability we lack that they have. And I am reminded that when excavating the remains of the Roman Empire they found a rant claiming “this generation” would be the end of all.
 Still… I have fond memories of long conversations walking the streets of Old Forge. I miss our conversations. Facebook is interesting, but no substitute. Long thoughtful posts rarely get read by those who should read them. Short snippy, thoughtless comebacks bring cheers.
 Old Forge is as beautiful at night as I remember it: maybe more so. But sometimes these days I seem to see more ghosts of friends than people.

                                                           -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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