Long Green Tunnels of the Unexamined Life

The long green tunnel of shade that is Forbidden Drive is my haunt. I have hardly been downtown, and in the heat, who really wants to? I walk along the sometimes silent, sometimes merry Wissahickon, right down to where it begins to smell of sewage and meets the wider sparkling Schuylkill. Cities were not much made for summer, I reckon. Not like the leafy suburbs where mature timber casts brooding shadows over quiet, recondite lawns.

Summer was probably made for Maine, where it is cooler yet and the wrinkled North Atlantic stretches away, a featureless path. I hear there are many pines in Maine. There are no trees of which I am more fond.

I noticed the temperature in Bogota yesterday, and for the week, an inviting steady high of 63F. That is a kindly and humane temperature. Not so here. Still, I do like Philadelphia, specially Forbidden Drive along the Wissahickon gorge.

* * *

Politics is in full swing, isn’t it? The unreality is on view. This is the best election ever: nothing for dull sober consideration; no one can browbeat you about the importance of your insignificant vote; you can laugh or you can cry, that is all. Brand is all, and brand Trump is strong: he has the sophist knack of Gorgias, he is much cleverer than the driver of the expensive hulking claptrap machine opposing him, he has, in fact, an ideally repugnant opponent breathing life into his possibilities, he maintains the glamor of a precarious prosperity, he is made for TV and made by TV, and as long as politics goes on on TV he has that edge. He needs attention is all, and he knows how to get it. I have heard it said he is a man wearing a loose-fitting Trump costume, and I find it sufficient explanation. Many wring their hands. There is nothing more helpless than handwringing when handwringing is all you can do. The Republican machinery has become a self-fulfilling curse. The elites of a TV age despise him, but he has a way of turning attacks to his advantage. He will only go away if he’s ignored, but now he cannot be ignored; his grin shows he knows it. He is a creature for this moment.

TV, remember, is an entertainment medium; the medium is the message; anything you see on TV comes with the loud message “this is not serious.” That is the inevitable message if the medium is the message. Turns out, it probably is. And so America is ready for Trump, and I am ready to cast my vote.

I notice that cellular telephones are all screen nowadays. Screen and camera: made for TV and made by TV. Can they represent the televisionification of all of life? Have you got yours? From what I can tell, they are portable entertainment many consider necessary. Necessary in the age of Trump. Trump is the message of the media of our age.

Lord Monster, I shall call them, the phones and him. And I’ll vote for him without taking a selfie or anything, with just the satisfaction of knowing there is nothing more outrageous one can do, paying my respects to the spirit of an age than which few have been more outrageous. It is like living in a Monty Python sketch, in which, by the way, the medium’s message matched the content. I have been there, I can now say. It is interesting. I may whistle the Sousa march as I cast my vote.

I have this unsolicited advice: there is no taking it seriously. It is not serious, and it cannot be. And that is what I take my vote to mean. All I have read and seen add up to this. I am open to persuasion, but only from a person who does not own incriminating cellular telephony. I know the message of that medium: Trump.

* * *

I am reading Laurus, a marvelous work, at least in the middle thereof. Set in medieval Russia, magical realism deftly done, evocative but not purple prose, and the heavy-handed black humor without which Russians would not be Russians—to my seeming. It is very good. It is another thing to enjoy, and probably more lasting.


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