It’s 9:03 pm on a Tuesday night in mid-late January. Katie’s on the phone with her brother discussing what to read next: Thoreau, Kierkegaard, Asimov, McCarthy…Brian Sanderson’s Mistborn appears to be the winner. I’ve got a stack to read on my farmer’s table…

starter stack of books to read

…and a stack of what I’m currently reading next to my side of the bed.

the stack of books I am reading in 2017

Combined, we’ve got two boxes of books spread about in front of the main bookshelf in the living room, waiting to be relocated to their new homes.

stack of books awaiting room assignments

That doesn’t even include the small stack in the secretary desk display in our bedroom, the piles of nonfiction in the newly-purged spare room, and the basement bedroom of books I left back at my mama’s house in Indiana – complete with the hardbound Shakespeare collection edited from 1904-1908 by W.J. Wolfe.

Hamlet and Julius Caesar did make the trip out here, if that gives an indication of my mindset.

Katie is using a planner to sort out what to read in 2017.

She’s putting together the master list of what she needs / wants to read in 2017, determined to puncture through not only her 17 in ’17 list, but finish what she didn’t get done in her 20 in ’16 theme. She’s taking The Road

No. Wait. The Road gives her bad dreams at night. Take: 2.

She’s got a Kindle app on her phone. She’ll find something there to read to our neighbor’s birds while she feeds them.

Katie, if Ducky bites you, bite him back this time.

The TV was off by 8 pm tonight and I’m only shaking a little.

To be fair, The Bulls game ended at 6:30 p.m. Pacific time so it is not like I am going completely television-deprived. And in all fairness, we have left the Chromecast screen on the TV. It is showing 4K photos from my Google Photos account as we speak. It gives us weather & time and the occasional news story to provide interludes within the feed. I might sneak in a little bit of Agents of Shield on my iPad while I do the dishes tonight, but otherwise, we have made a conscious decision to turn off work and TV early at night so we can focus more on the mountains of books we have yet to read.

You have to read to write.

Or at least immerse yourself in something that challenges you to create. Either way, it’s an effort to sacrifice entertainment for a life of purpose.

My shaking is a real thing. It’s #FOMO, like what I went through in 2013, but this type is worse. Luckily, I’ve been through it before.

It’s much more similar to how we detached from chronic football watching in 2015 and then last fall when we started cutting pop (soda) and fries and much of our red meat intake, but what I think makes this case of #FOMO much, much worse is how I essentially had to go without television & media for most of our time at Denom U. Cable TV didn’t make it into the dorm rooms until the semester after I left. It was one shared TV in the common room for most of my time. And every time five of us wanted to see the Bulls game, some pudgy mama’s boy claimed the room two hours before to binge on cartoons or Friends reruns. Or both. I couldn’t afford my own computer until my Senior year. Sure you could use a computer in the computer lab, but that was just enough time to check email and write papers and then you were out of there so the next person could get in. It felt like a fast food line. And, as for radio, we couldn’t pick up but one FM station on campus – the school’s station.

So when I get the shakes because the TV is off, it’s because I go back to when I felt cut off from the world, isolated in a cinder block room filled with books written by overfed academics who never really had problems (sans Jesus, the Apostles, and Martin Luther) and I get afraid of a recurrence of Depression.

To make it worse, half those books usually glorified those sacrifices and the rest tried to reason the sacrifices or scribble up grand oration as if they could truly exegesis such struggle. Such assholery passed off as praise.

And other tales from long ago.

Though, it would explain why tales from folks named Burnett and Morganfield better appealed to me. Talk about struggles. As Katie reminds me, “not everyone had to live 9-to-a-pool-house.”

Not that we had to do it for more than a year at a time.

In the end, no one can gauge the depth of their struggle until they come across those who have struggled more.

I just happened to be the one in the room at Denom U. struggling more than anyone else. More than the teacher, student, and the writers. The couldn’t relate to my struggles and I didn’t find their struggles worth relating to. It can be difficult to read any significant contribution to western philosophical thought when it didn’t provide any tangible significance to my situation. Especially, like usually with Kierkegaard, when the position came from self-imposed suffering.

So, when I turn off the TV before the end of the night, it scares me.

It does go beyond #FOMO. I’m afraid of missing out and being isolated, left without means of keeping connected. It’s a 20-year-old scar. It might also explain why I chose a life in front of search engines. It will take hard-fought time to get used to choosing to continually disconnect. But when I completely overcome the shakes, and re-calibrate muscle memory and instinct, oh, what joys will follow.

Gotta go. The birds are trying to make out with Katie’s phone as she plays them soothing sounds. I think they’re experiencing #FOMO as well

these birds really miss their daddy.
Katie had them listening to a cover of Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love,” performed by…Birdy.

Then dogs, walks, dishes, and back to J. Ivy’s Dear Father, because sometimes, symmetry is essential. If I’m lucky, I’ll have #FOMO on how his book ends. And how the next book ends…

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