Monday, April 8, 2019

Not something the Internet would like

Oh man, brace yourself, you are about to really see something!

"I'm on the Internet." You reply. "How can I possibly see anything?"

I will explain.

Edward Abbey wrote a passage, in what I think was Desert Solitaire, that I have always remembered. Not remembered in a 'let me recite it for you now' kind of way. I remember it in spirit. I remember it thematically, by one of the tree rings in my soul.

It went, wildly paraphrased and poorly rendered, something like this:

You can't see anything in the wilderness from a trail. You won't see anything in the world that's worth seeing easily. You have to get off the path and wander and struggle. You have to sweat. You have to fight your way forward. You have to walk, dragging yourself through the clutching, scrabby bushes, and over the tumbled boulders til your body breaks down, til you are fallen to your knees. You have to crawl along the dirt and jagged rock until your very blood marks your trail. 

Then, maybe you will see something.

It's a great passage. I did it no justice. I've always loved it. It's total nonsense.

Last night my wife and I were driving home from The Mall of America. We were coming up The River Road. There was a deer. It was huge. It was wild. Its legs were long and elegant. It moved heavily and with grace. We stopped the car. There were four other deer, healthy, magnificent, tooling around some rich people's front yards, nosing in the great planters holding the temporarily dead plants of early Spring in them. Seeing our car stopped they took the languorous opportunity to cross the street in front of us, one after the other, almost as if they weren't together when they were so clearly together. We watched them in joy and wonder. They disappeared into the night and the River gorge.

It was something all right.

But Edward Abbey was right too. 

And you were right as well. The Internet is no place to see anything.

Oh sure, just like me you've been on your share of Internet hikes and every five minutes you see something amazing. You say "Wow." Whatever it was will have been upvoted 11,245 times. It has been shared and it has been gilded. It has two million views. If I showed it to you now you would say "That is amazing." So would I. The nice, perfectly paved, bricked and railed, Internet path will go by it at the perfect angle and provide an ideal viewing height. You will gawk and dazzle. 

And then in five minutes you will forget it and never think of it again. 

In a few minutes you would see another one of these wonders. "Wow" you would say. And you would forget that one too. Maybe you would see one so thrilling and striking you would tell people about it later. You would show it to people gathered in front of some screen somewhere. And then you would all forget about it.

Because there was nothing to remember.

You can't see anything on the Internet. It's numbers defy wisdom. It's paths are too perfect. Its wilderness too vast and broken and horrible.

But if you brave it, if you plunge off the trail, into the weeds and razor wire and poison oak, you will see even less.

Unless you get just this lucky.

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