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  • Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. I assume you're familiar with the famous Simpsons newspaper headline "Old Man Yells at Cloud."

  • But it occurs to me that some people watching this might not be familiar with it or else might only know it from the Internet

  • because they were born after that episode of The Simpsons first aired in

  • 2002. So, when you have kids one of the phrases you start hearing a lot is

  • "Developmentally Appropriate."

  • Like your pediatrician will say that temper tantrums are developmentally appropriate or that it's

  • developmentally appropriate for your kid to refuse to eat anything other than processed carbohydrates

  • and that as such it's developmentally appropriate for your kid to engage in a complex nightly negotiation over whether they will eat two strawberries

  • so as to stave off scurvy. Anyway,

  • I like this phrase developmentally appropriate

  • and I wish we continued to use it into adulthood so that I could tell myself that it's

  • developmentally appropriate not to understand Snapchat or to genuinely enjoy gardening or to find myself

  • yearning for some idealized past that never existed.

  • It may be that I feel this more acutely than the average person because I've made a living trying to write about how it feels

  • to be young for the last 13 years. I mean, I'm so old that my career is a teenager.

  • I should add here that getting older does not have to mean yelling at clouds and on that front

  • I have wonderful models in my parents both of whom have remained

  • passionate and hopeful and curious throughout their adult lives. Like when I was in ninth grade

  • I liked to listen to Nine Inch Nails's "Pretty Hate Machine"

  • really, really loudly and one day my dad came in and asked if he could borrow the CD and I was like "Yeah,

  • but you're gonna hate it because it's super alternative." I think I literally said alternative and then a few days later

  • my dad returned the CD to me and told me that while he could live without some of the profanity he found the music really

  • compelling and hoped I didn't mind that he had gone out and bought his own copy of the album.

  • Ah, is there a better way to defang a child's rebellion?

  • But even though I have wonderful mentors in the field of being middle-aged, I still find myself yelling at clouds.

  • I yell at literal clouds because they impact the garden that, God help me,

  • I have gotten really, really into. I yell at our

  • unnuanced, outrage driven political discourse and, most of all, I yell at--and also I suppose with--the social internet. From the time

  • I was 14 until a few years ago the social Internet gave me deep meaningful relationships that I struggled to find IRL.

  • But now it mostly makes me feel anxious and spirally without deepening my feeling of connectedness.

  • And I don't think that's because the internet used to be amazing--like 1994

  • AOL chat rooms make 2018 Twitter look civil and sophisticated.

  • I think it's because I've changed, but if I didn't feel an obligation to be on Twitter and Reddit and the rest

  • I don't think I would be and maybe I shouldn't feel an

  • obligation to be in virtual spaces that feel like they make my life worse.

  • But then the Internet always pulls me back in. Partly because I don't want to miss out, partly because I want to share stuff

  • I'm working on and books

  • I love and causes I care about, and partly because I feel this almost

  • physical urge

  • to check. Check my e-mail, check Twitter, check Instagram, check Reddit, make sure nothing terrible has happened, make sure there's nothing new that needs my

  • outrage or my awes. Check, check, check. Like many people with OCD,

  • I live with the constant urge to check, the terrifying dread that accompanies not checking, the irrational

  • certainty that this time checking will be important.

  • But it feels to me at times like this phenomena now happens across the social order--like the Internet has hacked healthy brains and turned

  • them into obsessive checking machines. But there again

  • I am an old man yelling at a cloud forgetting that the social Internet also facilitates

  • conversations across borders and other divisions and that it gives a voice to people who otherwise wouldn't have one and so on.

  • Feeling the urge to make grand pronouncements about what's good for other people is probably a developmentally appropriate symptom of middle age,

  • but it's one worth fighting against.

  • I don't know how you should live what Mary Oliver called, "Your one wild and precious life."

  • I don't even know how to live mine, but I know that I like my garden. So if I'm quiet on Twitter or elsewhere,

  • know that I'm probably here and quite content. Hank, I'll see you on Friday.

Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday. I assume you're familiar with the famous Simpsons newspaper headline "Old Man Yells at Cloud."

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Old Man Yells at Cloud

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/30
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