Ethics Existentialism Philosophy Proper Psychology

Ghost Machine: A Brief Phenomenological Portrait

I am an empiricist, and a limited one at that: I learn of the world through what I can touch. My fingertips are restless seekers for the relevant, the pertinent, the titillating and tantalizing; my palms the throne for the tiny window through which I view the world. Tiny it is, but what a light shines through it. Hours of effort are now condensed into a few-second swipes; I pay my bills, I read the Scriptures, I converse with those I love through it and with it and by it. Do I need anything else? It becomes difficult to see why I would. Everything I require is ready-to-hand.

Eventually, I engage in a phenomenological curation of reality. My perception, altered by the digital stream, begins to view the world outside that window as something to be melded to my liking. In the same way that I unfollow dissenting views, I learn to tune out those with whom I disagree. I imagine myself as bold, because I’ve got silicon courage; who needs wine to speak truth when a comment section will do? The beautiful shades in perfectly designed bedrooms, captured in a square photo, become my litmus test for authenticity. How long did it take that person to capture that “vulnerability”? It doesn’t matter; that’s what I want my life to look like. The comparison game has never been so easy.

Hours. And hours. And hours. They pass by and still I’m staring, still I’m stuck, still my thumbs have done all the talking and my eyes all the doing. My companion calls to me when finally I put her down. There’s something else I need to do, something I forgot, something…it would be different if I only ever entertained myself. But this companion of mine provides so much utility. She streamlines my life. And what else could be better than maximum efficiency in every area of daily existence?

And yet. 

I’ve lost my capacity for deep, sustained thought, for single-tasking. It’s easier to see what other people have accomplished than to make my own art. I used to communicate through more than memes and 140 characters. Where is my focus? My creativity? My passion? Where is my ability to engage in conversation without irony, without mockery, without a thousand tiny icons to represent my emotions? Where is meaningful action, purposeful reflection, silence, solitude, solicitude —?

I don’t know. I think I may have lost them in my ghost machine.

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