The e-mail regarded a Facebook group I created. The group was dedicated to, not a local reverend’s choice of tie, or a high school football coach’s constant crotch tugging, or city official’s nose picking at a red light, or about the town’s many fulsome gas station bathrooms, but it concerned a man who owned a church. He owns a few churches, in fact. From the looks of things he won them in a game of Monopoly against Billy Graham.
I doubt it was jealously than urged me to create a Facebook page about a man who collected churches like baseball cards, though maybe I wanted to just use the word “cheese dick” to describe someone. Cheese dick was a word in the e-mail described to me as “one of the many too repulsive to copy and paste to cite”. I think I was just a bored boy who had no desire to live life after a second edit.
Since most of us carry a computer at our side or on our back, I used my laptop to edit the page as I sat in a dean’s office to ironically praise the target of the profile. It now says he is a good guy. Nothing happened at all in the way of punishment, I was just told that a rally of non-students thought my actions as a student were inappropriate and needed spiritual, as well as grammatical, reassessment.
This was at the event horizon of the Facebook phenomenon. Before then no one told me to watch my profile, and that people read and see entire lives through a virtual portal. Though, I had already discovered that no one reads what you want them to, they always seem to find you when your skirt is up and remember you by that. This is one of the few, and rare, real tabula rasa moments I have had. Though my hand has been caught in the cookie jar more times than I care to write about, only a couple sacred moments have led to any sort of intervention or crucible consisting of any type of authority, both moral and administrative.
I never grew from this moment, though. Maturity never festered. If anything, contempt for authorities hiding a virtual world only grew. If Big Brother buzzes inside my computer screen, I certainly didn’t want to disappoint the ever-vigilant overseer. I was compelled to disobey and disappoint anyone who read nearly anything I wrote—anything other than for a piece of poetry or fiction I wanted to become famous for.
This was a failing, because soon I wrote a series of articles for my college newspaper and each lacked proper the time and sobriety needed for great, or even acceptably vanilla, journalism. Each article was apathetically edited once before sending it sailing over an e-mail voyage two-hundred yards away to campus, where, since I had waited to write anything an hour before deadline, my large back page Op/Ed space ran the risk of being filled with a pious cartoon picture that I am sure the editor had on reserve, along with a Dutch Muhammad cartoon. More accurately, the contents of the paper would be stretched like a low-quality image made larger.
Each article was run as-is. One could practically smell the whiskey on each comma splice. The articles were an indictment on how I was thinking and living.
Still, I wasn’t bothered. I was still too angry to be totally ashamed and change. Not totally ashamed, I would feel more disgust with readers than with myself. No one could enjoy how little I cared about a reader’s opinions. Reader-response criticism was as far from my mind; the implied reader was a son of a bitch and I wasn’t going to waste my time thinking about them. I wasn’t even thinking about myself. All that mattered was the seed that compelled me to write, along with babying the germ of indifference to tone, style, and the skill at which I wrote. I lost my desire to edit myself. This is how most people think, though, with no desire for deep thought. Lenin was swayed by a book, which he said he read four times over the span of a few months, called What Is to Be Done? by Nikolai Chernyshevsky. Stripped bare, the novel endorses the maiming of man’s free. Artistically barren, it was a book that written in the same manner as Glenn Beck’s The Overton Window—a political novel full of characters who say what they are created to lifelessly say by the writer. V.I. Lenin sacrificed something up top by dedicating himself to such a stupid work, and it led him to villainy. He lost the ability to live objectively. Life needs revision, our ideas and what we each deem to be right, may have the mark of simple stupidity across it. I do not know how to spark self-intervention. But think about how many villains you know. Think about the lame-brained men and women you see every day. Think about your great aunt who still wants revenge on the Japanese and Germans. Think about what you love but don’t know why you love it. Why do you deserve to live while untold humans won’t know how it feels to have their lungs expand with breath. Know how easy it is for men to become ruthless dictators when they stand on a platform of power. We need to write a new character—a new us—in our heads and see what they want to do and how they would live out their life.