A Thoroughly Modern Rx

If I were a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of 21st-century illnesses, I'd prescribe the entirety of Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Self-Reliance for an increasingly common affliction I've identified called "social media-induced malaise."

The following excerpt I would specifically recommend to treat what I call "grass-is-greener ennui," a vague but persistent discomfort one feels after viewing the Twitter and/or Facebook profiles of her seemingly more accomplished or happy friends:

"...The voices which we hear in solitude... grow faint and inaudible as we enter into the world.

Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater. The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist."

"Life is not what you dream"

The Flaming Lips performing at Bonnaroo 2010; photo credit Kravitz/Film Magic via RollingStone.com

“People say, ‘Why are you doing Dark Side of the Moon? It seems dark and cynical,’ but I don’t believe it is. I think it’s a great, simple mantra, this idea of ‘all that you touch and all that you see and all that you taste’ – the idea that your experiences are your life.

I think that says a lot to this crowd here, saying, ‘This isn’t about reading something in a book or watching a movie or being on the Internet. This is about really living life.’ It’s about your friends, it may rain on you, it’s going to be hot, you have to shit in some Porta-Potty. It’s about experiences, and that’s what your life is. Life is not what you dream, it’s what you live.”

-the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne about the band's decision to cover Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety at this year's Bonnaroo music festival in Tennessee. I finally leafed through the July 8-22 issue of Rolling Stone, the one that contained the much ballyhooed article about Stanley McChrystal. But the part of the issue I liked most, which wasn't posted online, was Brian Hiatt's wrap-up of Bonnaroo.

Crystal balling

Getting my 23andme results was kind of how I imagine it'd be like to visit a really good psychic. I was almost more excited to hear stuff I already knew about myself than I was to learn new things, just because it proved that they actually know what they're doing.

This future stuff is pretty cool, you guys.

The New Victorians

Karl Lagerfeld's recent Vice interview has me re-thinking my plans to get a smart phone. I know he's completely nuts, and I obviously can't afford to hire a personal letter carrier, but his dismissive put-down of always being connected is pretty sharp.

And even if I do spring for that Nexus One I've been eyeing, I'm definitely going to start using the phrases "I'm not a chambermaid" and "I'm not working at a switchboard" to explain any lags in email and phone call response time.

Your relationship to technology is kind of interesting.
Well, I hate telephones. I prefer faxes because I like to write.

Who are you faxing? Nobody faxes anymore. You’re like the only person with a fax machine.
People I’m really friendly with have faxes. Anna Wintour has one. We speak via fax. And in Paris I send letters to people.

That’s a lost art.
I have somebody to deliver letters all over every day.

You send a note over.
Yes, I send notes.

That’s very Victorian.
Yes, but there’s not one bit bad about the Victorian. Civilized living for me is like this. I’m not a chambermaid whom you can ring at every moment. Today, you know, most people act like they work at a switchboard in a hotel.

The whole culture of cell phones, texting, and instant messaging is very impersonal and also very distracting.
I’m not working at a switchboard. I have to concentrate on what I’m doing. The few people I have in my telephone are already too much.