Today I found myself in a very dark place, and, feeling unable to do anything else, I wrote an email to my wife. Normally we text or Slack each other during the day, so I don’t do this very often. I’ll use email if I need to monologue over a full paragraph or two, and I’ll aim the email at my wife if I want to do something between writing in a private journal and writing to a friend, or on a blog. In this email, I confessed feelings of fear and anxiety which I found so heavy as to cripple my ability to work. I felt like I stood amidst a crisis that felt like it should preclude everything else I had going on, even though I couldn’t do anything at all about it.
After I sent the email, I switched back to my web browser in order to return to my rounds of reading terrible things. It happened that through some video-memory error, the preview pane of an embedded video on the website vox.com picked up the text of my email like Silly Putty picking up newsprint, even smearing it around a bit as I dragged or resized one of the windows prior to switching. The result looked like an intentional work of glitch-art, made all the more interesting by the website’s framing it with an obliquely (if accidentally) tangential headline, as well as tags and feedback buttons. I posted a screenshot to Twitter:
Sent an email confessing my crippling anxiety to my wife, and vox .com somehow turned it into a work of glitch-art pic.twitter.com/fQGDUN9r09— Jason McIntosh (@JmacDotOrg) July 21, 2016
Seeing my words transformed into completely unintentional art like this couldn’t help but force me to take a step back, and feel a little better for it. It freed me up enough to admit I was probably running a chemical deficit, so I went across the street to my regular coffee shop and had a coffee and sandwich and felt better still. The Twitter post got some funny, sympathetic feedback from friends. I returned to my office and inevitably opened all those websites again, but I didn’t feel weak or helpless any more; I felt like something had burned out of me. I got some work done.
I still fear that many aspects of our reality will get worse before they get better. I think that no matter what happens over the next few months, we’ll need to withstand a mighty, long-lasting, fear-driven pushback in retribution for decades of civilizational social progress, and we’ll struggle to recover from it. When things start feeling really dire, I appreciate any reminder I can get to keep my focus on the people close to me and actions that lie within my reach, even when those reminders come via strangely beautiful accidents.