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Nice in 175 Characters

Posted on May 29, 2005 in Compassion Consuming

square068.gifThe temperature to cause a cell phone light to glow must be very low. Not much friction must be required for sounding its alarm. So the warmth needed to broadcast a message from one phone to another must be less than 451 degrees Fahrenheit.

I’ve been rereading that book and thinking about its world. The appliances stick out all around us: Walkmen, reality tv, generations who prefer comic books over classic literature, bookstore owners who see their sales declining. The Salamanders have only to be built and the order given to hunt down those of us who read and write books. We live in times that only differ from Bradbury’s novel in small small ways.

A friend of mine causes me to sigh as she attempts to drag me into that future. We have a strange relationship, cemented by text messages and the occasional voice mail. It’s OK to send text messages — I do it with other friends — but when this becomes the whole of your communication, things turn peculiar. You have to phrase things precisely and in under 175 characters. You lose inflection and substance. Sometimes I find myself sending several text messages so that I can say what I want or just leaving a long voice mail. I hate voicemail, too, because, invariably, I sound flat and wooden. How can you inject compassion and know what a person needs in such a one-sided conversation?

Still, the messages I get sound like she needs counsel or consolation or just contact. So I try not to sound like she’s an idiot or about to make the mistake of her life. In 175 characters or less, I try to be nice — a friend who listens reads and encourages. I don’t want anyone losing heart — it’s always hard to live with the disease — but I am caught here between my feelings of concern and my sanity.

When you go out into that world, you face many challenges. And this is one of mine. I suffer from bipolar disorder and I have more than a few friends who also suffer. But at what point do I say “Here is where I draw the line. Here is where my sanity matters more.” I think it comes at some point before I light the fire and throw myself with my arms spread like an open book into the flames of frustration.

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