Michael woke me up at the ungodly hour of seven with three persistent phone calls the last one of which ended with something I heard as: "You must get up, the bombs are falling!" Wha...? wha...? With a tension and controlled panic in his voice he tells me I should turn on the TV. "They've bombed the trade center." It was completely destroyed. He had been out walking the dogs and the doorman had just told him on his return.
I told him I couldn't possibly talk to him until I had my morning coffee and cigarette but that I would call him back shortly. I would love to pass this off as some kind of English country unflapableness, but it's just my addiction.
For me, it was a day of quiet astonishment. After calling Michael back, I tried to get into work, and did in fact do some mindless cross-checking. By and large, however, I remained glued to the TV. Even so, I felt curiously removed from the whole thing, and this feeling was due to something other than living in the protected hinterlands.
When I saw the video of the plane crashing into the second tower, I caught my brain-gears saying : This is not real. This little mental re-adjudgement disrupted the immediacy of what I was seeing and there is no way to recover immediacy once it is lost. After that, the impact remained indelibly intellectualized. Today's experience was very different from the televised shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. I remember that well, and it was as if it occurred in your living room. It was truly shocking. But in the intervening years, the daily barrage of live warfare replayed into our homes and the endless stream of special effects and split screens between the place being blasted to hell and “our studios in New York” have reduced everything to a mediated reality. Acts no longer bear an impact; they come supplied with one, and this leads to masturbatory emotionality of little use.
As a result, I have become guarded against allowing myself to be affected by things that don't actually affect me. Sort of nisi in coram nisi prius in sensu. I am not there; I do not know anyone who was; it was not in my present; I am not now impacted by it in anyway, just as I was not impacted by the earthquake a couple of years ago that killed 30,000 in a few seconds, I forget where...I think Sicily... In all events, I am not about to let some manipulative anchor dink jerk me up into some state of fast-feel, junk emotion.
I do not mean to say that I did not think about it, or that the spectacularity of the deed did not rivet me or that I am not cognizant the political consequences that will affect me for sure. But other than a feeling of horrified pity at seeing little “specs” of human being jump to their death, there was little that resonated at an emotional level. I looked at my doggies several times during the day, blissfully snoozing in the sun's rays. Their unawareness served as an admonishment. Between true immediate impact and artificial titillation lies a space which can be mediated by a barrage of television chatter that fills the air with trivializing data or by detached reflection. And so I don't have much to say other than that I am thinking about it.
[Continued September 13th]