Unsolicited Advice for Living in the End Times, Vol. 24

When the lighter was invented, people did not abandon matches, and when the ever popular vibrator popped on the scene, no one made a case for getting rid of the penis. Well, some people did

If Twitter has taught us anything (and it’s taught me nothing), it’s that the words we read are not always beacons of truth but sometimes just typing. When receiving emails encouraging you to enlarge yourself, it would seem as if someone has your best interests in mind and truly wants you to live a fuller life. A further reading of these e-mails might give a clearer picture. At first I thought they had my back, but after closer scrutiny I realized it was another region of mine they were interested in.

I don’t doubt that fantastic gains are guaranteed, and maybe they do want me to have a bigger and better life. Not that I don’t want to give my partner the best of me—and of course I’d want to see the desire in her eyes. But I’m given pause when I read that nothing beats a huge stick and that my love tool will be set to thrill.

It can be a difficult task to decipher the truths of life, trying to make sense of the patterns that appear around us. The attempt to understand the messages we receive should be handled with great care, especially as the end of time looms. For me, before heeding any message, I like to know who’s speaking. I have always been a strong proponent of  “take it from whom it comes” advice filter, but these days people seem to consider not just who advice comes from but also the delivery system that brings it to them and sometimes the age of the deliverer. Since the advent of the hands-free phone, it is no longer so easy to recognize the insane. It was once a comfort to walk the streets knowing when to veer to avoid the person screaming crazily into the air. Now you wouldn’t be able to walk down any street using this antiquated system—plus you take the chance of being flashed by some ranter who you thought was just an agitated stockbroker.

But the worst filter, surely, is “What does everyone else just like me think about this?” When Louis CK proclaims on a late-night television talk show the danger of the Internet and says we need to put down our electronic devices, people proclaim him a genius. Somehow none of these people noticed that they spread the news of this new neo-Luddite prophet through the electronic miracle of social networking, which is built on a series of networks but is not necessarily social at all.

Conversely, when E.L. Doctorow, on accepting a lifetime-achievement medal at the National Book Awards, warned about the dangers of the Internet and expressed his preference for books over e-books, he was deemed out of touch and out of time. Strangely, his distrust of the virtual world was interpreted as his being disconnected from reality. He was then virtually buried under an avalanche of insulting tweets and status updates, mostly using cultural references he most likely wouldn’t understand. He didn’t even see the deadly memes coming at him.

We must blend the old and the new. Our magic bullet will be made of equal parts past and present. When the lighter was invented, people did not abandon matches, and when the ever popular vibrator popped on the scene, no one made a case for getting rid of the penis. Well, some people did, but I took it from whom it came. We need to communicate more carefully, listen, and speak with more thought. We should not be getting excited about being able to talk to our phones, televisions, and cars until we master the art of hearing and being heard by living organisms.

Remember, when a person is being described to you as being batshit crazy by a person you know to be batshit crazy, it might be time to ask who is who and what is what. The great revealer admits that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but we still have to know what it is when it isn’t.