I consume, I do not digest. I do not reflect, I do not give back, I do not breathe. I consume.
I consume podcasts. Sixteen in all. Sixteen that I keep up with regularly, which is to say weekly—seventeen when Serial updates—and it astounds me (mildly) to see that number written out. Sixteen podcasts, and in a week they average more than eleven hours of content that I listen to in transit between work and home.
To stay abreast I listen close at double speed.
I consume news articles. Over the course of the day on which I wrote this post, I read twelve, according to Chrome’s history. Twelve news or news-related pieces, and more besides that—on culture, on art, on the state of evangelical Christianity post-election. And this on a day when I had a three-hour class, and office hours for students, and a lesson to plan, and a blog to write.
But news. I consume.
Consume. News. But this election cycle has sucked me dry, or close to dry. It cracked my bones and sucked my marrow with a straw. Consumed me, maybe, we could say, but I consumed it back on phone- and laptop-screens, over radio waves and coax jacks, and now it’s scattered all my thoughts—hyperlinked or dead-linked them, each one to the next. A nonsensical parade. The Atlantic, the NY Times, the Post. CNN and Vox. I’ve subjected myself quite happily to colonization by reporters and pundits. Political junkie to a T.
I consume, I consume—
I consume music and reviews and books. Facebook feeds and Twitter scrolls. Emails, emails, emails. I consume because I like to know things, or to be known for knowing, or…
I consume because I consume because I consume. And because I consume, I consume more.
And, furthermore, Clarissa thinks that it is dangerous—very, very dangerous to live even one day. But maybe, too, it’s dangerous to think even one day. To not consume and not go on sharing your headspace with another, with the crowd, with the cacophony of voices that are always talking, talking, talking. Maybe thinking by yourself is lonely, scary, dangerous, and hard, and maybe sometimes instead it’s easier, maybe, to consume and go on consuming—consuming and maybe trying not to think and meanwhile watching as your thinking flies apart while you consume.
And I’ve felt myself, feel myself, begin to fragment. Fragmenting courtesy, it’s true, of too much British Modernism (sorry), but also courtesy of too much swallowing whole this hypertext cocktail. Of insufficient mental ventilation. I feel myself run out of my own head I consume so much.
Days in fact there are I feel like a balloon that’s swelling swelling swelling and stretched so tight and thin it hurts and
and when it bursts I imagine in my place a heap of broken bylines allusions clickbaits hottakes jpegs gifs intros outros all spooled out on the floor:
“Hey, y’all, this is the NPR Politics—” “Like many Americans, active-duty service members—” “when a guest on @MorningEdition calls Code Switch racist—“ “Now it’s time to play ‘Good Thing, Bad Thing’—” “Stephen Bannon gave a voice to white national—” “I’m Ira Flatow—” “I’m Linda Holmes—” “I’m Ira Glass—” “You’re listening to my unedited conversation with the late Vincent Harding—” “Carrie Fischer reveals ‘intense’ affair with—“ “The bad news: It’s not—” “governing is dirty work—” “The failing @nytimes story is so totally wrong on transi—”
Ben DeVries (’15) graduated with degrees in literature and writing. He and his wife Jes, a fellow Calvin grad, live in Champaign, Illinois, where Ben is looking to add some letters behind his name. On the academic off-seasons, he reads fantasy and works as a glorified “go-fer” at the Champaign Park District. He’s been known to make a mean deep-dish pizza.