It’s not necessarily real, but at times it feels more awakening than any external experience. But what do you call a time in the mind?
Calling it an experience seems ridiculous. If social media has taught us anything, then an “experience” is quantified by documentation. No photo, no “experience.”
Maybe you felt, or thought, or dreamt something profound. Maybe you didn’t. There’s a strict one-admin policy for the theater of the mind.
That said, the Alice-and-Wonderland depth that exists in all of us — that well filled with mismatched memories, places, and emotions we turn to when we’re craving an escape, or jolt of inspiration — surely that must have some intrinsic value, even if doesn’t immediately translate into a shareable entity.
Light the Darkness, an anthology of interviews with famous writers, articulates the pleasure of memorizing a poem:
“When you internalize a poem, it becomes something inside of you. You’re able to walk around with it…Poetry is as important today as it’s ever been, despite its diminished public stature. It foregrounds the interior life of the writer who is trying to draw the reader in. And it gets readers in contact with their own subjective life. This is valuable, especially now.”
The author of this essay Billy Collins explains that poetry’s diminished stature in modern society stems from an invisible, constant pull into “public life,” elaborating:
“The sanctuaries of private life are so scarce these days. Every [the most banal activities,] from ‘I’m going out for pizza,’ to ‘JoAnne is passed out on the sofa,’ are broadcast to the wide word…We’re not suffering from an overflow of information — we’re suffering from an overflow of insignificance.”
Public broadcasts. Endless scrolling.
Today’s cultural currency. Endless scrolling.
Everyone’s game. Endless scrolling.
Our reality. Endless scrolling.
An epidemic of insignificant overflow? Maybe Collins has a point.
America has always been about freedom and the merits of individualism, originality, creative expression and personal vision, yet today we’re so easily dragged this way and that by the currents of our online communities. Not to mention, with the omnipresence of A.I. and data-based recommendations, do we realize just how much we’ve entered codependent relationships with digital feedback loops…that seem to know us better than we know ourselves? Need Netflix to direct you to a new series? Swiping on Tinder for your next date? Want a party playlist courtesy of Spotify? And that’s not even including all the articles we’re force fed through Facebook or the shipments Amazon nudged us to buy.
As we give with our online updates and receive through digital recos, the cycle sucks us in from both directions, leaving us little room to escape.
“At last I had time to have time,” author, journalist, and solitude expert, Tiziano Terzani, once said while taking a hiatus from society to live in the woods. Having time for time is such a luxury — And a luxury that can feel daunting once finally made available, as it often asks us to hold a mirror up to ourselves. Yet somehow the “selfie generation” is also the cohort responsible for bringing yoga, meditation, plus a host of other self-knowledge rituals into the mainstream. To put a finer point on the paradox: Might we be the generation obsessed with projecting our public selves, but equally obsessed with better understanding the richness of our interior selves?
How very millennial of us.
Y2, a trendy fitness studio in the heart of West Hollywood’s wellness scene, offers a mind-body experience that truly taps into the self, if you let it. The studio creates an inky black, bar-like ambiance. Mirrors don’t exist. All you can see and hear are drippy silhouettes of humans moving to bass heavy, hip hop soundtracks and the husky voice of an inductor that could at any moment become a cast member in the next Magic Mike movie. This description is laced with scepticism for today’s LA yoga craze, but I have to give it to Y2, regardless of your commentary its aesthetic, the place has a way with making you present with yourself.
And maybe there’s some value in that.
It’s a thrilling, some might even say out of body experience, to cut ties with the digital world to better become one with our interior universe. After all, as Matthew Bowker, a psychoanalytic political theorist, explains in The Virtues of Isolation, “it might take a little bit of work before it turns into a pleasant experience. But it becomes … the most important relationship anybody ever has, the relationship you have with yourself.”
And maybe the benefit of prying ourselves away from the overflow of insignifiance… the invisible influence of technology…and the incessant feedback loops of social media, isn’t about isolation after all.
Could it be that from spending more time in the mind, we might locate something seeming unreal that we make real. Something significant enough to truly warrant sharing?
Harkening back to Light the Dark, author Kathryn Harrison argues, “art is material even though it expresses the ineffable. A book might be inspired by darkness, but it is a material, concrete thing made from worlds — real things that, put together, mean approximately the same thing to me as to you. That’s what I do, what a painter does, what it means to engage in a creative act: balance there, on that line between the dark and the light.” Between our individual imaginations and our hyper-connected culture. Between a disconnect, and deeper reconnect.