Monday, October 17, 2022

On liking and being / liked

17 October 2022

Be the first to like this because liking is good, but no better than being first. The first is a form of being, but only in the future past, when I will have remembered clicking. Parse the difference between a red heart and a blue thumb’s up. Match your pay scale to your quantity of likes. Even dislikes (which don’t exist) will do, because they mean someone’s eyes paused, finger moved, synapse fired. We can see the first two, but not the third, as mind is as invisible to eye as it is to mind. To think is to spelunk, but there’s no time for it. The surface seems so much more reasonable, more “relatable,” more of a piece with our shards of hours and minutes, pre-destroyed by the judgment system. If I put up a selfie and you like it, are you liking me or my photograph or the fact that I’ve offered it to you without knowing who you are, unless you like it? And what of my cv, with all its enumerations . . .

One problem arises in liking tweets from the Ukraine. Kamikaze drones that kill garner as many likes as any day in the park. In which case “like” stands in for “I’ve noticed this and want you to know it’s so.” Shorthand of shorthand. He called her Shorty in the elevator. Short greetings pierce the shafts. One cave had a clothes rack across the back, hangers arrayed but lacking anything to hold onto. Not an allegory of detachment, but of not-having, though it might also be seen as photograph only. Composition over subject. Affect over fact. What we see and feel more than our history. This can go both ways: I can cherish the memory of a feeling without remembering its instance, or I can operate according to my gut, and my gut does not like you. My gut might send you to Delaware or Illinois with other migrants. I care only for those I know, not those I stand beside on the subway or those who are as abstract as the fear they engender in me. Caravans of abstractions come north, when needed to swing some votes. You don’t see it, because you’re too busy liking something else, like a flower because that is what photographs are for. That’s not a poem! She wrote to me, because the photograph was of ugliness. But a trapped green gecko on a rainbow eucalyptus, its head threaded to the tree by sap string, is beautiful. Deal with it.

Many have stopped liking; they resign, get off the platforms, develop private lives or whatever passes for private these days. When the boy dropped dead beetles on a couple making love below, they knew nothing of it. They had chosen a semi-private space for a semi-public act, and this was the thanks they got for it. Someone once rated my friendship with her by making two columns, one of what was worth keeping, the other what was not. I was astonished.

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