Saturday, January 24, 2009

Facebook Melancholia

FaceBook Melancholia: (DSM III 296.32 2.0) A mood disorder triggered within one who opts into the Facebook community. The mechanism of disease is activated when one realizes the digital immediacy offered by Facebook is inconsistent with the physical/emotional intimacy long-lost friendships once promised. This disorder causes mixed feelings of joy, sadness, regret and gratitude. Clinical trials -have shown that some Facebook-Melancholia-sufferers risk an onset of depression but elevated depressive symptoms associated with Facebook Melancholia are usually resigned to specific ethnicities, most notably the Irish.

I am suffering Facebook Melancholia.

The damn social network triggers off a hell of unintended memories.

Memories are dangerous and lively things, as my friend Paul Luikart noted.  He cites, in his blog, Stephen Hawking's concept Background Radiation, "a kind of radiation that's ever-present out there in the blackness of space . . . left over from the big bang," and what kind of individual background radiation we all have. What kind of memories hang behind the lives we live?

My Facebook Melancholia creates critical exposure to my Background Radiation.

Jason Stamp friended me yesterday. He and I performed Pinocchio together during Christmas Break at MSU in East Lansing, 1989.

How did 20 years happen?

A social network back then was a case of Little Kings shared with friendly theatre freaks.

I try to tell myself that it's just the endless Chicago Winter and the fact that 30 degrees (F) feels like spring but I know it's something else.

How did twenty years happen?

The stubborn Midwest cold that ignores my gripes is the same bitterness Greg Mills and I would grumble about when we woke at 7 AM in the Bush I era to make our Pinnocchio call time at the Fairchild Theatre. We would crunch through the frozen snow towards the basement studio where Greg would play Tony one of the bad kids taken away to become a donkey by Jason Stamp's Coach-master and I played Spruce the Wood-Elf - a conceit invented by John Baldwin our director to allow for Pinocchio's magical growing nose.

We trudged hung-over towards the theatre where 4 shows full of grade-school kids would be waiting. We urged each other on with the promise of hot coffee and donuts. We would grunt like caveman weathering a glacial creep keeping each other's spirits up during the morning walk.

Greg: (Crunch of snow) Coffee.

(Crunch of snow)

(Crunch of snow)

(Crunch of snow)

Me: (Crunch of snow) Donuts.

How did 20 years happen?

I now have 386 friends according to my FaceBook profile and with each new friendship request I feel like Hamlet, Act III in the midst of a digital Denmark muttering, "To friend or not to friend . . ."?

The status updates create the most longing (coincidentally Jason is going to get his wife donuts). Self-pity and regret creep in and I'm alone on this social media parapet Booth-like wrestling the Dane's mortal coil.

Arthur Schopenhauer simplified Hamlet's soliloquy as our state of being, " . . . so wretched that complete non-existence would be decidedly preferable," yet, "there is something in us, however, which tells us that this is not so, that this is not the end of things."

I meet old friends up close in posted photos and 25 random things and the knowledge of what once was tightens with my memories of what I imagined would be.

There is a lyric by Paul Westerberg on his Mono disc in a song called 2 days 'til tomorrow that reads, "From a distance you look peaceful and so far away up close . . ." Westerberg wrote that tune among others after a 5 year silence and a nervous break-down. He was making good from the bad left over when his major label record contract and promises of being the next big thing flamed out. He put it together in his basement alone probably in the middle of a Minnesota Winter not unlike the Dante hell of a Chicago January.

I've brought Westerberg's sense of intimacy to my relationships. I credit this lesson to my Pop. The Old Man would wax stoic over Altes Golden Lager (Fassbier) when things got a little hot between him and my Mom. When the Old Lady needed transparency to quiet her anxiety and avoid the blackness of rejection, Pop would meet her confusion with a cigarette-choked mumble, "You figger it out."

I never thought I'd miss the people I left behind but I do. I hear my Pop's choked laugh, "You figger it out."

Facebook contains a dangerous amount of background radiation. Mary V posted party pics from 1993 and at once I realized that the "grunge era" was an era (and it is gone). I noticed the page-boy Eddie Vedder bob on Rob and wondered if his colleagues at Bell & Ross now would forgive him such an "Evenflow" doo.

This stuff has a half-life. There's Danny my theatre company partner and my favorite actor (now in California); Kate in full riot grrrl dress (now back in Detroit); Keegan (famous now impersonating President Obama on MadTV); and Randy (gone to the next life God bless him).

The boys' sin in Pinocchio was to stay young forever in the land of play. Boys who strive after the land of play become donkeys. To crave youth makes one a jackass.

I was a jackass back in that time with these friends. I would play a head-game and measure myself against my favorite men's defining age. I didn't do this to set goals but instead did it in the hopes of slowing time through nervous rationalization in the hopes of telling myself I could yet be somebody, someday.

At 22 I told myself that Dustin Hoffman was 30 when the Graduate was made, and at 30 I told myself Raymond Carver was 40 when he finally was published, and when I woke unemployed at 40 this year I told myself Shaw was nearly 70 when he landed his Nobel Prize.

I try to buy time like this and I realize I am just an ass.

How did twenty years happen?

Facebook Melancholia is no fun. I miss my friends.

Being up close so far away is not that peaceful.

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