Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Infinite Jest

Infinite Jest is a 1,079 page novel by the late David Foster Wallace (DFW). I haven't read it, but as I was updating some iPad apps and playing briefly with a synthesizer app called Magellan, the phrase popped into my head. The 1996 book is somewhat in the news because of a new movie "The End of the Tour," based on an interview with DFW by a Rolling Stone reporter played by Jesse Eisenberg. It sounds pretty dull but I guess it all depends. According to an article on how to fake having read Infinite Jest (because come on, who reads a 1000 page book?):
The Title: “Infinite jest” has three meanings in the context of the novel. It’s a Hamlet quote, the name of a fictional movie that’s impossible to stop watching, and a reference to our own culture of constant entertainment. [emphasis added]
I guess that's why "infinite jest" popped into my head. I was realizing that Magellan is possibly the most amazing musical instrument ever, and if I had had this one thing before the era of i-devices and the Internet, I might have spent weeks or months exploring and creating music with it. The sounds are beautiful and the flexibility is mind boggling.

But I've had this app for probably 2 years, and except for brief periods like this when I launch and play with it a while due to an app update, I hardly notice it. I have 143 apps on this iPad including at least 20 synthesizers (probably more since GarageBand has several synths built in). Every one of those synths is similarly worthy of hours or weeks of exploration and music creation. Yet I hardly notice them and have not written or recorded even a song fragment in months.

I can't blame my lack of creative output on "too many choices" but this does play a part. My journal does too. I'm not dying but sometimes it feels like I'm amusing myself to death with apps, Facebook, Flickr, Amazon Instant Video, Apple Music, and all the other trivial stuff vying for my attention.

In my personal hierarchy of worthy pursuits (outside of family and work), creating something is #1, especially if it's a completed song or recording (journal or blog writing gets partial credit). Learning something, usually by reading a book, is probably #2, and I still do spend a lot of my free time on that. But I wish I could figure out how to get past the fractal fragmentation of the culture of infinite jest. Usually a self-defined "special project" like making a new album does the trick, but I've defined several of these projects in the last year, and they too have succumbed to fragmentation. Maybe I need to lock myself in a room with nothing but a guitar. Would I have my iPhone too? It's a slippery slope.