Moderating Modern Madness (Now Go Outside and Play)

by Charlotte E. Wilde

The silence of a January day, even in the middle of this looming city, was as weighty as the layers of blankets and comforters that pin you down on a sweaty winter’s night. Something about the streets had changed again—a phenomenon generally arriving concurrent with the rotting taking place in leaf clogged gutters, possibly as early as late November but seldom as late as early December.  It’s the fleeting eye contact with a stranger’s cigarette; the whoosh of cold air on your back as you sit huddled over computer and coffee; the blink of frosty eyelashes flecked with snow—somewhere, somehow, you’ve become totally isolated.

Perhaps the air has thinned so much nothing else has survived. Perhaps the world has hibernated, sucked back into its heavy shell to wait for spring. You begin to suspect you’re the only one alive in some strange post-apocalyptic sci-fi flick: a solitary journey across the arctic permafrost of grimy city streets. A driverless car whizzes through slush while carless wanderers shuffle down streets, looking narrow misses and thick white lines alike, squarely in the eye. The boots that plod by you on the sidewalk never raise a head except your own.

And really, would it matter if they did? In a world of Facebook posts, Twitter, and Instagram, what does that flash of white, eyes cracking hard into another’s strange irises only to boomerang away and back again, even mean?

Nothing.

You’re not so naïve as to think that human connection is anything but lost on us in the modern age, navigated primarily through computer screens and the vibrating pleasure of texts received. The Conscious protects the Subconscious from the onslaught of information fed in the form of  “walk sign is on” and “X and 123 others liked your post.” Modernity has fundamentally altered the means through which we identify with one another as people, as living breathing entities that exist in time and space, not just in the blank between the words of an SMS and its time-stamp. Eye contact or the intimate brush of a warm hand have been replaced with mumbled, downcast, excuse-me, pardon-me’s that sing as falsely as any 1940’s propaganda. The silence of “no new comments” looms as uncomfortable as too many layers and sleeves too tight. This is it, The Winter of Our Discontent— a phenomenon generally arriving concurrent with the rotting taking place in cerebral cortexes and mind-gutters alike, possibly as early as late childhood, but never as late as early adulthood (and always restricted to 140 characters).

It’s the fleeting eye contact with a stranger’s phone as you stand behind them in a line, the whoosh of icy air as you slide your own out of your breast pocket despite the cold in order to check a tweet or tap a like; the conspiratory blink of frosty screens flecked with snow all lined up at crosswalks waiting for the green of go.

Perhaps the world has hibernated, sucked back inside its heavy digital shell to wait for spring. You begin to suspect you’re the only one alive in some strange post-apocalyptic sci-fi Youtube made of solitary Solitaire metro rides, Candy-Crushing through the arctic permafrost of grime. And true, the boots that plod by you on the sidewalk never raise a head, but that’s because they too are scanning Missed Connections. And aren’t we all? Desperately searching for something we’ve lost along the way, never realizing we just need to look up.

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