Quiet Desperation

Pointless babble and creaky noises

Column by Craig Marshall Smith

Over half of the United States population actively uses Facebook. Millions and millions are on MySpace, and millions and millions are on Twitter. I inactively use all of them, and I don't tweet.
I do make small, creaky noises when I walk, however. It's my bum knee.
I have this: a weekly column in eight newspapers, and I self-published a book consisting of 45 columns. Volume Two is in the works. Who do I think I am? Who do we think we are? Why do we spend so much time texting and tweeting, and transmitting our whereabouts and whatabouts?
I cannot answer for anyone else. I can only conjecture. I think egos are involved. Social networking makes it possible for each of us to show off, to let the world know we are here, to rant, to seek attention.
I know exactly why I write. It is very satisfying and self-validating. Just like painting. I had a better year as a writer than I did as a painter (in 2013). It was totally unexpected.
Tweeting has been called "pointless babble," but everyone is doing it. I wouldn't know how to begin, and if I did, I wouldn't know why I was doing it.
But I am an exception. Technology is passing me by. I just read that my desktop computer might be obsolete in the future because everyone is going to be using tablets. Not me.
I can understand why people would change over to tablets. You can make use of them while you are on the go. But I am not on the go. I am on the stay.
The same article said that landlines are almost a thing of the past, and 40% of us have wireless service.
Once again, not me. I don't have the latest anything.
My column appears online but I rarely read it there. I like to get ink on my fingers.
People stand in line to get the latest Apple. I don't stand in line. If I am third in line, I change my mind and go somewhere and get a milk shake.
I am an anomaly. I am retired, I have one living relative, and no family of my own. There are no urgencies, except for the one that cannot be mentioned here.
I don't need to - or want to - know what anyone is doing at the moment. I was told, however, that Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are great for marketing your paintings.
I doubt it. Nothing is working right now. Nothing is selling. Here and there, low-priced art is selling, small paintings, or paintings that look like things. That means that people are buying recognizable imagery. There is nothing recognizable in my paintings, unless you can see images in clouds and fireplaces.
Most people would rather have a new contraption than a painting or a sculpture. I wonder how many works of art were given last Christmas, compared to the number of tablets. That's just the way it is.
Think twice times twice before you let your babies grow up to be artists. It's inwardly fulfilling beyond explanation, but it does not fulfill the refrigerator.
You text, you tweet, I write. It's all a kind of graffiti. We want to leave a trail in our existence. It's a conceit. Sure, a lot of it is useless and pointless gibberish, but it's hard to resist something that everyone else is doing.
I walked into the Tattered Cover after they put my book on the shelves and two things occurred to me. One, I wished that my parents could have seen what I was seeing. Two, I am in over my head.
I am in the same natatorium that Dickens and Twain and Camus are in, but I am underwater and breathing through a thin reed, gasping and treading. I am breathing a heady and intoxicating air.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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