Since the founding of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other mainstays of what technology writers have come to call 'the social Web' or 'Web 2.0,' a sizable portion of humanity has learned to be together while apart, sacrificing intimacy for control and spontaneity for predictability.
It's no accident that most self-help groups use 'anonymous' in their names; to Americans, the first step toward redemption is a ritual wiping out of the self, followed by the construction of a new one.
People can be so neglectful of each other and of their own heritage - then death intrudes. Conversations we wish that we'd had earlier are had too late.
My mother used to push 'Wuthering Heights' on me as a boy, and I sensed from her breathy description of the story that it would make me laugh. I have no plans to find out if this is true.
The success that Americans are said to worship is success of a specific sort: accomplished not through hard work, primarily, but through the ingenious angle, the big break. Sit down at a lunch counter, stand back up a star. Invest in a new issue and watch it soar. Split a single atom, win a war.
E-mails, phone calls, Web sites, videos. They're still all letters, basically, and they've come to outnumber old-fashioned conversations. They are the conversation now.
I love reference books, especially collections of memorable quotations, world almanacs, and atlases. Facts to me are like candy or popcorn, small, tasty delights, and I like to gorge on them now and then.
In a world that's smarter than it used to be and, in some ways, smarter than it ought to be, stupidity has a way of making us seem all the more human.
We want to believe that we're invulnerable, and that people who get tricked deserve it. Well, they don't. And someday the arrogant types who mock the gullible are likely to get their turn to wear the dunce cap.
In fourth grade, I learned that reading was serious business, not just a pleasant way to pass the time, and that like medicine or engineering, it had a definite, valuable purpose: to foster 'comprehension.'
Cross the wrong state border with your gun, or wake up one morning to new legislation or a new presidential executive order, and suddenly you're the bad guy, not the good guy. No wonder some gun owners seem so touchy; they feel, at some level, like criminals in waiting.
The reason con artists get away with what they get away with is, their victims are ashamed of their own blindness and their own gullibility, and they tend to just quietly go away.
When we have a favorite writer, it's always the places where they grew up, lived, worked, and that they recreated on the page that we most want to visit and commune with. Faulkner's Mississippi, Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles, etc. The mind of the reader longs to be somewhere, not just anywhere, and certainly not nowhere.
When I shoot at the range, I don't feel personally powerful but like the custodian of something powerful. I feel like a successful disciplinarian of something radically alien and potent. Analyze this sensation all you want; you still can't make it go away.
The fictionally correct have all the answers, and that's what's wrong with them. They're artistic technocrats. There's no dilemma so knotty, no question so baffling, that it can't be smoothly neutralized by dialing up the right attitude adjustment. Poor old Hemingway. If only he'd known.
I read somewhere once that in the 1960s, fiction writers were troubled by the notion that life was becoming stranger and more sensational than made-up stories could ever hope to be. Our new problem - more profound, I think - is that life no longer resembles a story. Events intersect but don't progress. People interact but don't make contact.
Thanks to Twitter, iPads, BlackBerrys, voice-activated in-dash navigation systems, and a hundred other technologies that offer distraction anywhere, anytime, boredom has loosened its grip on us at last - that once-crushing 'weight' has become, for the most part, a memory.
The reason that last-ditch political maneuvering has become business as usual in Washington is that the actors involved are drunk on blame and are convinced that the voting public is, too. They count on outrage, thereby spreading numbness. They cherish the prospect of partisan fury, thereby inspiring nonpartisan disgust.
I say 'here's the thing' a lot, both to alert people that I'm about to say something important and to give myself a moment to figure out what that important thing might be, because my head is so often completely empty.
Guns can turn you into an insider even if you're an outsider by nature, recruiting you into a loose fraternity of people who feel embattled and defensive and are primally eager to win allies.