IS OLD AGE
Are you young? Do you express your thoughts in small sentences on Twitter? Do faces, familiar then unfamiliar, tumble in front of you demanding instant recognition, as on Facebook? Do you find yourself not able, or not wanting, to concentrate on any one thing for more than a few moments, with your mind bouncing around, as on Gawker or HuffPo or just about any website? Do you volunteer your opinion about the most obscure subjects all the time, no matter that you know nothing about them, as on any blog or thread in Netland?
Congratulations, if you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you may be 12 or 18 or 25 in human years, but you are 60 or 70 or 80 in mental years. I should know as I am almost 60. Most of my life is behind me, and I find that thoughts of the future are existentially nonexistent. Like most older people, I concentrate on the present and dream of the past. Hence, thoughts and experiences hit me like what Einstein called "packets of light."
It ceases to be desirable to plan or take on rigorous long-term projects. Just getting through the day or the hour is sufficient challenge. I find myself walking through large museum shows diagonally, capturing one picture here and another picture there. Modern art had a descriptive name for this state of mind. It was called Cubism. But visual art pulled back from Cubism to a more contemplative pace by expressing the abstract, minimalizing the object and reducing art, sometimes, to concept alone.
Now art, and the art experience, kaleidoscopes in the fractured rainbow that is social media. Jiddu Krishnamurti, designated as the Messiah as a handsome youth in the 1920s by his wealthy British patrons, harshly rejected the title and devoted the rest of his life to preaching simplification, concentration and the virtues of a settled mind. In his book, Think on These Things, he casts humanity as being in a heightened, constant state of conflict due to the material and information overload of modern living, magnifying a state of alienation in the individual.
The paradox of social media is that it promises a palliative to this alienated mindset by connecting oneself "all over." And, in doing so, it is making you, youngsters, mentally ancient way before your time. While you are young (and guess what? it doesn’t last) you have the luxury of long form living. The future, clichéd basis of so many campaign and commencement speeches, is really your current state of mind, a beautiful place to be.
But there is no "future" in social media, just a permanent, yet ever shifting "now." Step back from that stuff and not only smell the roses, but discover again what a rose is. For all too soon, you, too, will be petals on the ground.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).