Friday, November 30, 2007

Another Semi-Serious Essay

I wrote this for a reading my Creative Writing class just held, but felt it to be appropriate for this blog.

I recently downloaded Firefox, and while I love how smoothly it runs, I have developed another addiction to match my nicotine and penchant for unrequited love.
I have become addicted to Stumble.
My Bookmarks folder has become littered with random comics, jokes, and images that Stumble has brought to my attention. And since I apparently needed yet another method of procrastination, I now find myself spending up to an hour at a time Stumbling my way through the Internet.
It’s not just that I like the things I come across with Stumble, though that certainly encourages me. There’s something deeper about Stumble, though, that consistently draws me back to my computer, expecting to see things I could never imagine.
What Stumble does is highlight those tiny details, the minutiae of the World Wide Web, those singular pages that would otherwise be lost in a sea of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook. I am hopelessly attracted to hose fascinating conversations—for some reason preserved and recorded onto a Web page that its creators must have known few would ever see—the corny stories and aphorisms, pages offering self-help, advice, warnings; during one Stumble session, I found an acronym generator, a site that lets you replicate Jackson Pollock paintings, and what was dubbed “The Strangers Internet Video Online Ever!”
In a way, at the risk of sounding cheesy, I guess I Stumble through life. All of my close friends at school, the boyfriends that have come and gone, my favorite restaurants and dive bars—all of them found randomly, as though I had clicked an imaginary Stumble button on my existence and chosen to keep in my life those things I deemed worthy of, metaphorically speaking, bookmarking. It is the things I seek out—the perfect friend, the wildest party, the guy I’ve wanted to love me back for so long—that I can never seem to find. I long ago stopped believing in the value of planning out my life, and am content now to start my day not exactly knowing where or with whom I’ll end up. It’s usually no surprise—my best friend’s dorm room, for instance, is a common destination—but I’d rather not know for sure until I’m standing outside her door.
I guess that’s how I Stumble too. I discover new Web pages, new obsessions, new stories too good to be true and images too unbelievable to be staged. Yet I always seem to wind up on Facebook, reloading my Wall, and hoping that somebody tells me something new.
There’s a Web site I Stumbled upon called onesentence.org, a kind of virtual PostSecret, where people tell stories about their lives in one sentence. They range from the heartbreaking to the hilarious, and differ in length from a couple of words to, admittedly, the occasional run-on sentence. I am drawn, naturally, to the sad ones, the tiny tragedies that people therapeutically tell the online world. The simples ones work, I think. One of my favorites comes from “Ryan,” who tells us: “I had a crush on Katie, my ‘dream girl’, but she thought I was gross.” There is something so hopelessly final about it; conveying a rather common emotion, Ryan has encapsulated in a sentence what some novels try for and fail. The one-sentence rule forces you to choose every word wisely, to characterize entire lives in the span of a few lines. You read so much into so little; another story goes, “Knowing that my miscarriage brought him relief is something I'm not sure I'll ever forget.”
Onesentence.org is my new favorite pastime. I pore over the pages, going from category to category, occasionally stopping to reread a story that has particularly touched me. I don’t plan on sending in a story myself as I fear I’m much too verbose to condense my language so, but when I can identify with someone else’s sentence, well…it’s a good feeling, even if the shared emotion isn’t a happy one.
I Stumbled upon this Web site, and I keep on Stumbling in the hopes of finding other new favorites, just I’ll keep on silently hoping to run into the person that will change my life, or the book that will become my new must-read, or even a new food that I’ll have to get every week.
I like stumbling as an action because it captures the best of both sides of life; it’s not quite falling but not quite running. It’s a momentary limbo where you don’t know exactly how it will turn out, but best thing you can do—the only thing to do—is keep on going, hoping that you don’t fall but knowing if you do that it’s easy to get back up again.

-Josh

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