Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Internet Inside

If you couldn't guess from the above image of a digitized VR Jeff Fahey from The Lawnmower Man, this is about a strange and not necessarily pleasant thing. All respect to the unfadeable Mr. Fahey, of course. I know he's a fan of the site. Anyway, this isn't about Jeff Fahey. It is, maybe, about a dream I had.

I write 'maybe' only because I'm not sure that I was dreaming. I was asleep -- asleep after a fairly typical late night shift, in which an hour or so of frenetic writing followed another hour of less-frenetic (leisurely, even) scotch-drinking and non-writing. When it got late enough that it was transparently very stupid for me to be awake, I went to bed. This is not unusual. This is, for better or worse, the life I've got. It's pretty good, honestly. There's a pretty lady in the bed when I finally get there, I'm no longer drinking scotch that comes in shatterproof plastic jugs -- it's still a Utility Scotch, but I'm treating myself to big glass bottles these days -- and I like what I'm writing and who I'm writing it for. The next part is the unusual part.

That part was three hours later, when I was jolted awake by... I'm not sure, really. Everything, maybe? Anyway, these things happen. What had not previously happened, in this respect, was that, after waking up -- it was 5:02am, which is about as unappealing a time of day as our shared 24 hours afford us -- I was confronted with a deafening barf-wash of internet noise every time I closed my eyes. It was silent, in the same way the internet is silent, but it was deafening -- if my eyes were open, I saw my bedroom's ceiling in the pre-dawn dark. If I closed them, I saw a screen filling with bad news and noise. Angry @-messages of indistinct letters, gchats and personal messages and emails, all of them converging on the "why" and the "where is this" and implying not just You're Fired but You're Awful, Jesus, You're Awful.

This was, in retrospect, probably something like a panic attack. Despite periodic use/abuse of panic-related medicines in the past, I don't know that I'd ever really experienced the Actual Thing for which these medicines are generally prescribed. If this was indeed it, I now understand why these particular medicines are so intense and narcotizing. Because this actual thing sucked, and because being awake for it -- suddenly, in this case, although I can't imagine a gradual slipping into such a thing -- was just fucking terrible.

It did not, I should note, come from nowhere. I was not in a panic-mode about anything in particular, although I was going to sleep on deadline as I do most nights -- and as, indeed, I probably need to do in order to actually write anything -- and also had some other longer-horizon things hanging around in open tabs and unanswered emails, daring me to go another 24 hours without paying attention. This is not cool or good or fun, but it is also not unusual.

All of this, every bit of it, lived in my computer as much as it did in my mind; none of it would or could be resolved through anything that did not involve accessing the internet through my computer, the thing on which I am writing this other thing. That truth is not just implied, although it's implied. My whole professional life is here. If anything is going to wake me up, it would be -- and in all fairness should be -- this. Our nightmares should match our lives, I suppose, and this is where my life is.

And yet, holy shit, what an awful way to be awake. I woke to my own pounding heart, and took the requisite deep breaths. I got up and walked around. I got back into bed. And every time I closed my eyes it was there again -- a blast of undifferentiated internet noise, those metastatic retweets and angry messages and emails I needed to answer but couldn't. Everything I wouldn't see until too late, or couldn't or wouldn't be able to handle even if it arrived on time. Deafening and characteristically quiet, every time I thought I was calm or reconciled or at least sleepy enough to close my eyes.

I don't even know, really, what all of it was -- this was some days ago, and I was tired in the way that people who would rather be sleeping tend to be. I was also probably still moderately drunk and also What The Fuck Was Any Of This. I am not sure there's any reasonable explanation for the internet blundering into one's dreams and then screamingly vandalizing them.

But I recall and can attest that whatever it was that woke me up sounded and looked like INTERNET: a big crushing high-peaked wave of things unfinished and unfinishable and too-big and rageful, all in the colors and shapes and style of my internet life. It was awful, and it took at least a half hour of haunted noisy attempts to get myself back to sleep; in retrospect, I just needed to be too tired for this particular anxiety to register, and then I slipped back under. I woke up when the alarm went off, as usual, and I got back to work.

But yes, all that sucked, and in retrospect all I can think about when I think about it was that it was miraculous that it took so long for this sort of thing to manifest in this sort of way. It all suggests that it would be good for me to find some way to prise my mouth off this foie gras feed-funnel for at least a few hours every day, or failing that to find some way to convince myself that to be away from this computer and this keyboard is not to derelict in some fundamental human duty. That all seems clear enough. I should probably get to work on that. I will put it on the list. I will work my way down to it, I guess.