The Latitude and Longitude of Human Experience In The Information Age.

The intrinsic value of our youth–where ideals beget hope, goals, and who we could become in life–and its diminishing returns are a brutal reminder of us in our heyday.  Enter nostalgia, the leading cause of alcoholism.  Okay, I probably can’t cite that as factual but it certainly could make sense.   Remember when hope, goals, and who we were, were as simple as riding the breath and not something we had to continually practice?

In a bar in Hell’s Kitchen, I sat sipping on a Shiraz and talking to two friends that recently discovered that they were eerily compatible and should date.  In talking about relationships and waxing philosophically about life, I made one of my most peculiar confessions.  I confessed to having strange sensations, which can only be likened to the vibrato of harp music within my soul, upon hearing certain types of information.

This phenomenon began in a geography class in junior high school during Coach Martin’s commentary of spatial interactions that lead into an example of tornadoes.  I wasn’t sure if it was hormonal or if I found Coach Martin sexy.  I hadn’t recalled thinking he was particularly fascinating before that, but then again I never had a vibration throughout my body to anything anyone else had ever said before.  I hung on to his every word, mesmerized at my own latitude and longitude of human experience.

It wasn’t until I was on the phone with my credit card company in college grappling with the consequences of default that the phenomenon occurred again.  Phone systems were much less sophisticated back then and actual people–the customer service type–actually spoke to you.

“Let me just verify that we have your most current information on file, Ms. Ben.”

Her voice wasn’t particularly nice, a Southern monotone, but as she launched into the verification of my identity the harp started.

“Your address is….”

“Your phone number is…”

“Your last charge was on..”

“Your mother’s maiden name is…”

She read off my information as I sat, vibrating from the inside, reveling in my personal information.  Was this a fetish?  I scribbled fetish on a post-it to research at the library later (pre-Google days). Was I a homosexual?  I scribbled homosexual down on the same small yellow paper.

“Ms. Ben?  Is this information correct?”

“It is, thank you.”

It happened several other times in college when someone spoke with  great intellectual gusto.  This type of massaging of my soul made much more sense to me–I clearly had a thing for intellect that was irrelevant of its host.

As the world moved into the information age, whoa, you can imagine my information-gasm. Everything and everyone of great intelligence at my fingertips.

I confessed to going inside the bank (when I never truly needed it) because at Chase their customer service advocates pull you to their desk in an effort to convert you from one account holder to multiple.  In this process they verify your information, and despite having been in there a few days earlier, I let whomever read back to me my most current information for the mere feeling it provides me.  I also confessed to most days feeling numb.  What was this weird physiological response to my identification?

“I totally get it,” my friend replied.  “It’s like a confirmation of your existence in this big ol’ world.”

All of a sudden, my confession made more sense.  It wasn’t weird at all, but simply my way of assessing my extrinsic value, and as a business student I can tell you it’s less valuable (than intrinsic).

From the Archives: Handshakes, Candy, and High Fives.

I remember when a simple handshake meant something, and with that integrity you could go a long way. Those were the days when you had no reason to not trust someone’s word, plus you had no point of reference to call anything other than a spade a ‘spade.’ Yeah, those days bring back the nostalgia. The mere thought of my mom telling me to ‘not take candy from strangers’ seems so much more poignant now that I have taken bowls full from them. So cute, she would revise it with my age; ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it IS too good to be true.” I guess even with revisions, you still have to touch the fire to realize it burns. The analogies that we hear and repeat, revise and reintroduce, hold merely no meaning until it actually means a hell of a lot of something.

So we sit here and contemplate these meanings until our heads get so convoluted with what it all means. By now, we’re so utterly paranoid that we don’t know if it burns or not. Is it fire? Isn’t it fire? Wait, is it really fire? I can’t be sure. Repeat. After the ‘spade’ has become a ‘spade’ time after time we start to distinguish between a spade and a non-spade, until the spade takes on a different shape. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck. So now that we’re dealing with ducks, we conveniently forget about the candy, fires, and spades. Now, we have to define ducks? Jesus, now everything means far too much and needs more clarification than simply not taking a piece of candy from someone you don’t know. Now, you actually have to trust yourself to decipher all these different literary devices of life into one system that holds your better interest. Sometimes, you don’t even have time to do the analysis that leads you to determine if it can walk or quack. Sometimes, you just have to know if it’s a duck.

Handshakes aren’t so simple anymore. In fact, handshakes mean contracts. Handshakes make people money and with money you need lawyers and partners to negotiate the touch of hand. Handshakes tell if you’re nervous, confident, or weak. Handshakes can lie and handshakes can cause paranoia. As I revert back to my duck-duck-goose days, I’m not going to just wait for goose; I’m going to just start giving high fives because no one gives high fives unless they’re genuinely excited about it.

Homer handshake

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