Cancel culture is not new, but as we stumble along into a new decade it’s as if the threat or fear of being canceled or unpersoned (‘unperson’ is one of those wonderful Orwell words) is more prevalent now than in previous years. Both the concept and the practice of unpersoning/canceling an individual fascinates and terrifies me. Cancel culture is not a cultured practice but it has become a cultural phenomenon that is worth a closer look.
It snowed yesterday afternoon through early evening over here in Illinois (I read somewhere that you shouldn’t start a piece of writing with a description of the weather). The news, with its cadre of weather forecasters and meteorologists, warned us that the weather was going to be severe, the snow plentiful, and the dangers real (nothing like a little bit of fear mongering to keep the readers clicking and the viewers fixated). There was some heavy snow and ice in other parts of the Midwest but we got about two inches of snow, half of which melted by this morning. With a new year approaching I came away from winter’s arrival with two pieces of information.
The first piece of information is that the news is not the best source available to get my weather forecasts. I’m thinking maybe I’ll just step outside with my morning coffee and look at the clouds each morning and make a reasonable guess at how to prepare for the day. The second piece of information is that winter is not too impressive so far. There wasn’t even enough snow last night to make it worth my while to take out the camera and snap off a few shots. Maybe winter will come on a bit stronger in January but I’ve got my suspicions that it is going to be just cold enough and snowy enough to make life uncomfortable for the next couple of months. Winter may even stay around long enough to bump the first part of spring.
Tomorrow is the last day of the year and today is the last day I’m going to write about winter. A sad snow storm seems to be a fitting end to this year. I wonder what 2021 has in store for us?
Anybody who is familiar with my journos will know that I tend to sentimental sketches and ramblings at times. If you are new here consider yourself warned. I once read that if you sit in one place long enough you will eventually run into everybody you know (I’ve spent enough time in bars and coffee shops to think there may be some truth to this). I’ve also read that if you live in one place long enough you will see pieces of your own past vanish (I’ve lived long enough in one place to think there may be some truth to this).
There used to be this just low class enough, just dive enough bar that I frequented in my early twenties. It was one of those kinds of places you would go with friends to drink heavily and try to meet someone (or a least be a wing man for one your friends who was trying to meet someone). It was the kind of place where you would spend a good chunk of your week’s pay on not too cold beer and watered down whiskey drinks. It was the kind of place that had a second rate DJ on Friday nights and third rate bands on Saturday nights. It was the kind of place with long lines at the bathroom and a haze of cigarette smoke (showing my age here) over the dance floor. In short, it was the kind of place that was the source of many good times with friends, many of whom have faded away over time. It’s amazing how we move from being friends who drink together until 3:00 a.m. to friends who occasionally “like” each other’s social media posts. If friendships of youth vanish it stands to reason that the places, those dive bars, would vanish too. There were many nights spent at Dreams with Brad, Chris, Dano, Drew, Ken, and others. Dreams is gone, a fire burnt it to a shell, and I’ve lost touch with most of those friends, two decades can cause people to fade away.
An absence of place (an old dive bar) and friends (moved on or faded away) can make you feel as if a part of life has vanished. But life isn’t a collection of places and proximity. Life is experiences and how we react to them. I went to the upscale bar and grill that has replaced Dreams a few weeks ago. I bought their cheapest beer, took a sip, closed my eyes and realized that the important things will never vanish if you care enough.
• “There was not a moving up into vacated places; there was simply an anachronistic staying on between a vanishing past and an incalculable future.” -F. Scott Fitzgerald-
• “I should like to tidy things up and disappear.” -Virginia Woolf-
• “Leaders should lead as far as they can and then vanish. Their ashes should not choke the fire they have lit.” -H.G. Wells-
• “I do have a sense, and I’ve never not had it, of how easily things can vanish.” -Doris Lessing-
• “Plunder, v. To take the property of another without observing the decent and customary reticences of theft. To wrest the wealth of A from B and leave C lamenting a vanishing opportunity.” -Ambrose Bierce-
Ever wonder where things go? Where do plans, places, old friends, and missed opportunities end up? Sometimes we can pinpoint the exact locations of these things, but other things simply vanish. There is the slow fade that we don’t notice until that thing we admire, desire, or hold close to us is gone. Then there is the quick vanishing act, as if some unseen magician has played some sort of cruel trick on us.
As I grow older it feels as if more and more things are vanishing (maybe I was too busy to notice them when I was younger). We live in a world of vanishing things such as objects, animals, places, and languages just to name a few. There are those things that have a personal impact on us when they vanish for one reason or another, and entire cultures are impacted when other things vanish. As I write this the word “thing” feels vague but when dealing with such a wide array of concepts what other word works (there are probably many better words that could be used but the 90 degree weather and the sixer of Miller High Life may be impairing my vocabulary)? Maybe the best we can do is to remember those things that vanish the best we can.
Whether it is a slow fade out or quick disappearance things vanish all around us. Some of these vanishing things impact us on a personal level and the vanishing of others may impact entire cultures. This month is about those things that vanish and the impact their absence may have on us.