A shallow story on thinking deeply

He sat by the dew covered window. The fiery summer sun was rising up in glorious fashion, but he paid it no mind. He was oblivious to the majesty of the nature waking up just outside his door. It was mere background setting.

His focus instead was on the book in his lap, and it demanded every ounce of his attention. A book of French poets that neither he nor any of his friends had ever heard of.

He concentrated on the words swirling around him. What were they trying to say? Was the poem about the sun a symbol for something sinister, or a beautiful woman? What does this metaphor mean? Or that one? (And how did the translator get this into English so well? Did he have to re-rhyme all the words?)

He tried to think like one of his old English teachers would, asking questions, searching for the deeper, more profound meaning obfuscated behind flowing words that, despite his lack of understanding, painted beautiful scenes in his mind and untapped dangerous emotions in his chest. How could poetry and words do this to him even when he didn’t get the writer’s point?

“No one writes like this anymore,” he noticed, “no one hides their ideas, their thoughts, and passions behind these fake meanings and symbols. It’s too confusing.” He re-read the poem for the third time, looking for a foothold.

No, in this world, people threw their thoughts at you like a rock through a window. No one took the care to be subtle. That wasn’t how blogging or web articles designed to get hits and ad clicks worked.

In his world, everything he read was a sucker punch of someone else’s ideas right to your face without apology— confidently and passionately laying out why they were right and why you should follow them for more insights. No, subtlety had no place in a world where the reader’s attention span was 280 characters long and their depth of though was only as wide as their phone screen. Pondering? There was no time for that. Tell me directly what you have to say so I can move on to the next thing. I have an endless waterfall of information to get through, after all.

Why use metaphors and adjectives to describe my feelings when an emoji speaks magnitudes and takes fewer taps?

Maybe this was why he couldn’t understand the poetry. Maybe he’d spent too much time in his world and not enough in theirs. Maybe it was a lost cause — his mind and way of thinking forever altered by the abruptness of his culture to the point that he wasn’t mentally capable of thinking like those poets — to read and capture their true meaning?

This must be why none of his friends had heard of these ancient authors. Their works — easily available online, in e-book, audiobook, or delivered to your doorstep overnight — were forever lost to history because few had the mind to read them to its full appreciation.

An endless treasure chest of history’s greatest art and ideas that formed society as we know it, were sitting in the pockets of nearly every human being, but no one had the key.

He finished one poem, started the next. He didn’t understand them fully, but they made him…content…somehow. Something he never felt when he scrolled through his media feed. He kept reading, ignoring his phone and its shallow distractions. If he had bothered to check it, he’d have realized that the sun was up, a celebrity he’d never hear of said something that didn’t matter, and that he was late for work.

Drink pairing: Death in the Afternoon (Absinthe + Champagne)


Liam Brodentel

(Read the making of this story here.)

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