Is My On-Line Presence a Waste of Time?

“On suns and worlds I can shed little
I see but humans, and their piteous plight.
Earth’s little god runs true to his old way
And is as weird as on the primal day.
(Goethe, “Faust” lines 279-282)

Journal Entry: Friday,
February 8th, 2002…
I’ve been waiting.
I am facing a surgery in four days. I have known
this for five weeks. I’ve been worrying a lot, frankly.
Many things could go wrong. It is natural, then,
that I make an assessment of my life, my relationships,
my accomplishments (if any), my work, my goals,
and my publication I’ve wondered if any of these,
my on-line publication included, have been a waste
of time. Have I wasted my one and only chance at
living in any way? Thoughts about mortality have
that effect on me. Limits. I hate limits.


sure means of irritating people and putting
evil thoughts in their heads is to keep them
waiting a long time.”
(Nietzsche, “Human,
All Too Human,” 6:310)

Waiting. I just sit here. My mind is free to roam.
I fiddle my fingers. I lean back and sigh. I look
around impatiently. Then I sit up and begin to go
into deeper introspective thoughts and suddenly I
become self-conscious. I come to, shaking my head.
I look around to see if anyone else notices me other
than myself. Waiting. Just waiting. Suddenly I am
confronted with myself. All that I am, have been,
or will never be, all of my empty expectations and
fanciful dreams, are presented to me for inspection
and judgment. I don’t like waiting because frankly
sometimes I do not get along with myself.

A few months ago I had a catastrophic failure of
the left shoulder secondary to chronic Prednisone
use from a renal graft 21 years ago. There, I said
it. I needed a shoulder replacement; my shoulder was
crumbling right out from me; I walked around for seven
weeks with a partially dislocated shoulder. Enormous
pain and suffering. Narcotics. The only way to get
through a day is with a healthy dose of opiates. Quality
of life? I have waited, and my mind has roamed. “It
only takes one irregular pulse, one torn muscle tissue,
one malfunction, one inattentive moment of the anesthesiologist
or surgeon, and that’s that. I cease to exist.”

It is not often, I suppose, that one is put in a
situation in which his mortality forces itself into
his consciousness like a numb toe he cannot walk off.
But that is exactly the situation I have been in.
For six weeks I have known that I will be having this
surgery, and so I have imagined all possible outcomes.
I have begun to notice myself. I see: My dreams, my
hopes, and my aspirations — all of them seem
so endless, infinite, yet they are locked in a simple,
fragile, contingent being who’s consciousness has
a finite duration. I am a finite being who ironically
and comically tries to live in infinity, fearing I
never can.

human being is a synthesis of the infinite and
the finite, of the temporal and the eternal,
of freedom and necessity, in short, a synthesis.
A synthesis is a relation between two. Considered
in this way, a human being is still not a self.”
(Soren Kierkeggard,
“The Sickness Unto Death XI 127).


Journal Entry: Jan. 28th,
2002, 4 AM.
Pills. More pills. Pink
pills. White pills. Red pills. Blue pills. I have
been in debilitating pain for weeks, on narcotics
all day, with all their depressant, weird side-effects
(not the least of which is heightened enjoyment
of iTunes visual effects). I cannot do anything
on any day until I am filled with opiates, for the
pain shoots through my entire body making me incapable
of free action without hurting. Physicians tell
me shoulder pain is some of the worst one can have,
and I believe them. My memory is bad. I keep forgetting
things. That is good sometimes, because when I am
waiting I need to forget. But I keep losing things.
My attention easily broken. I am losing confidence
in myself. Snap out it Schultz!! Perspective is
90% of the battle. The depressant side-effect of
the narcotics have set in. I am paranoid. I fear
talking of tomorrow. God, this can’t come soon enough.
Dante should have made waiting for surgery a ring
of hell. That’d been divine. And pain!? Pain collapses
the subject-object distinction. I no longer inhabit
a body like a house I live in, as though it is separate
from me, like it’s some kind of vehicle I
use to get around in. The Cartesian dualist
dream evaporates like a ghost in the machine. No,
it’s not “my arm” that hurts, as though
my arm is a possession of some kind by my real self.
No, it’s not my arm that hurts, I
hurt, and there is no useful distinction to be made
here between body and soul.

Take the pain, the narcotics plus the waiting and
what do you end up with? The best way to describe
the last five weeks is just to say “I have been
experiencing, at a very high level, what it means
to be human.”

Journal Entry: 2-11-02
9:30 PM
. The night before surgery.
I am ready. I’v worked hard for 9 weeks getting
ready. I am handing my beloved Applelust to others
for two or three weeks while I have surgery and
recover. My beloved Applelust!! It’s hard. Yet I
trust them, they’ll do fine. I noticed something
interesting tonight as I talked with the staff about
my leave of absence: I am comfortable away from
Applelust. Does this mean I don’t need it? Do people
seek self-respect on the Web? Good luck!! Listen,
Dave, if you need a website to give your life meaning
you’re a pretty sorry sort of fellow.

Being There

he [answered me], “Remember your philosophy:
the closer a thing comes to its perfection,
more keen will be its pleasure and pain.”
(Virgil to the
Pilgrim Dante from Dante, The Divine Comedy:
Part I “The Inferno”, IV:105-108,
emphasis added)

Someone told me last week that she was upset at work.
She went into her office and began crying. Her boss
walked in and said, “Don’t cry at work, or my
superiors will think it’s because of me.” Well,
if he wasn’t the cause of the tears before that, he
certainly was afterwards.

“That’s inhumane,” I said.

“How so?”

“By telling you not to cry he is telling you
not to be human. That’s inhumane.”

I have felt, cried, laughed, walked, ran, flew, seen,
heard, hoped, yearned, feared, cheered, wished, wondered,
lusted, felt satisfied, worried, willed, touched,
tasted, sensed, itched… all of it. All of these
have had greater significance for me. Even driving
my car two blocks had greater meaning for me. When
you add mortality to any activity it takes on greater
significance. Why? Because it reminds you that everything,
and I mean everything, in life is on a timeline which
has an ending. So everything, every mundane detail
of my life, has been magnified so as to be seen for
what it is, or is not. Weighty matters are weighty;
absurd pursuits are absurd; comical situations are
comical situations. I hope I’m right.

My publication, Applelust, too, has presented itself
to me in new ways, in a more contextual way, showing
me how it fits into my life as a whole. Many talk
about a website as “just a website.”
The Web has a pretty bad name right now, and is the
brunt of jokes on “The Simpsons” and other
satires. Rightly so in my opinion since some of the
content is so poor or downright immoral and utterly
filthy. When I tell people I publish an on-line magazine
I get the looks, the grins and the shrugs. Most people
simply don’t take the Internet seriously. Is it a
waste of time? Is Applelust a waste of time? Have
I wasted two years of my life here since I clearly
understand that in 50 years no one will ever remember
it? It’ll be gone. I’ll be gone. So will you most

Journal Entry: March
1, 2002, 3:06 AM
. Questions to self:
Is something meaningful only if it lasts forever?
Or can things of finite duration have lasting meaning?
Because something ceases to exist, does it follow
that it had no meaning or does not in some way carry
on meaning? But how can a nonexistent object “carry

The facts: The Web, which was once used for the free
exchange of ideas and information by academics, as
a tool of intellectual progress and conceptual commerce,
has been cheapened and is now nothing more than a
whore to some profiteers. It was the AOL-ization of
the Web that changed it. Like everything else we touch,
it was commercialized, and therefore cheapened and
has become and embarrassment not unjustifiably in
some’s eyes. This makes me anxious about my own work
here. Ask almost anyone about the Web. What will they
say? What is the Web known for? Pornography, unreliable
information and dot com busts. Go ahead, just ask

But this is a skewed perspective of the Web. As an
academic I spend a lot time at some very large, professional
sites run by scholars and universities. These sites
have the best content you can find anywhere, and you
can bet that it is accurate and reliable. They are
run mostly by volunteers. No one makes a dime from
these websites. No, these are people committed to
ideas, and they are using the Web as a means for providing
scholars easy access to material for research and
teaching purposes. That is, they are promoting good
in the world. I think of sites like Perseus.
In fact, their mission statement says it all:

Perseus is an evolving digital library, engineering
interactions through time, space, and language.
Our primary goal is to bring a wide range of source
materials to as large an audience as possible.
We anticipate that greater accessibility to the
sources for the study of the humanities will strengthen
the quality of questions, lead to new avenues
of research, and connect more people through the
connection of ideas.

Yeah, this sounds like a good use for the Web. I
have to remember my logic: guilt by association is
a fallacy. This thought calms my fears about wasting
my life with this site.

But we’re no Perseus either. And what is more we dedicate
our energies to a human artifact, the Mac. The feeling
that I am wasting my life starts to come back… but
then I remember I have answered this all ready. Certainly
the Mac loyalty I have and others have is grounded in
rational principles, principles of beauty, utility and
symbolism. But this is old hat that no one should be
talking about anymorw because it’s been answered.

Journal Entry: March
6 1:12 AM
: Question to self: Is the
Mac loyalty I have rational? I mean is it grounded
in principles of reason? Is it consistent, at least,
with reason? Is there an element of common sense
with this Mac thing of ours? I think so. It seems
obvious in fact. So why doesn’t someone come out
and say it? Question to self: What Mac publications
are faint copies of the Cupertino original?

Into the Jungle: I start a Mac Publication

you not entertained?! Are you not entertained!?”
(Maximus, after
a colleseum battle in “Gladiator,”)

I wanted a website… and for my sins they gave me

I started this site just over two years ago. Why?
I read some writers on the Mac Web, but not many.
I had no idea who this or that person was. Yes, the
very people that you take for granted, as celebrities
in a very strange way, were unknown to me. I didn’t
read much of the Mac Web because, frankly, it didn’t
inspire me. And if the Web (or anything) isn’t being
used to inspire people in some way, well… what’s
the point? I mean movies inspire, books inspire, paintings
inspire, nature inspires, people inspire, so why not
a website? I mean really, if Tolstoy had originally
published on the Internet, his works would still be
art, right?

Oh, sure… people were being enflamed; mobs were
forming; the clarion call to arms were going out:
“Hey everyone,” he says, coming out of the
shadows, if for just a moment, waving his hands high
in the air, “come over here and let’s get mad
at Apple about this! Got a juicy rumor? We want it,
no fact-checking needed. Feel like going to that anger
management class? Forget about it, just write a 500
word rant and you’ll feel better! We’ll even pay you
$10 to make a fool of yourself.”

Oh sure… I know the counter-argument to this line
of thought: “The Mac Web is not intended
to be a place to find inspiration. It’s a place of
information, news, and talk of our favorite computer:
Information not inspiration is the game. Leave the
inspiring to the poetry websites. That is not what
the Mac Web was meant to be.”

But I respond with a simple question: Why not? Yes,
we need news sites and all that. It’s not an either/or
situation. So I ask: Why can’t we use the Mac Web,
and the Mac, to inspire people to higher goals and
ways? After all, isn’t that the point of Apple Computer
too? Of course it is. They don’t just make computers,
they seek to inspire. So if a Mac publication is devoted
to Apple Computer, the best thing it can do, I think,
is be like Apple Computer in its focus and personality.
That is, it should seek to inspire people. Think of
the thoughtful design that went into the new iMac.
Think of the art. Think of the simplicity. Think of
the ideas and aspirations it captures in its very
design. Think about how the monitor allows for free
collaboration between two or more people because of
its swivel. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
Each and every Mac site out
there should be a “fusion of art and technology.”

But they are not.

you must stop and think and wonder, how I must
feel, out on the meadows while you’re in the
(Jim Morrison
and The Doors, “Shaman’s Blues”)

Journal Entry: Feb. 5, 2002,
: James Joyce, William Faulkner,
and other writers ignored regular punctuation and
grammatical rules, not to mention chronological
aspects of their stories, to give a sense of time,
memory, and to fuse content and form into one. Do
you think if you did this on the Web, that is, used
some of these literary devices, people would just
think the article was not proof read , and that’s
all? Note to self: Form and content CAN collapse
and when that happens narration is abandoned. But
what replaces narration?

When I started this publication I had one clear goal:
I wanted to fail as completely and utterly as a human
being could possibly fail at doing anything. I wanted
to fail to be nonsensical. After all, there is enough
nonsense in the world without me adding to it. So
I thought if I utterly failed at that I would succeed.
For after all, nonsense can’t inspire anyone to anything
worthwhile, once all is said and done.

I assume that all of my writers are professionals
with professional lives and responsibilities outside
of the Web. I can’t stress how important this is.
Their writing comes from a context of a full, active,
and stimulating life apart from the Web. You see,
without the Web, the Web doesn’t make sense.
So the one requirement we have for writers is that
they do not need to write on the Web, that they can
take care of themselves, that they are adults who
are actively engaged in life itself. Having a full,
active life apart from the Web is the only way they
can make any significant contribution to the Web.
You see, if they have no interesting life apart from
the Web they have nothing to contribute to the Web,
I think. The Web is just another place where they
can share with others what’s going on in their lives
and minds apart from the Web. For some here it is
part of their professional life, since they list Applelust
on their academic vitae. How many “websites”
can say that?

When it gets down to it: It’s just another outlet
for human flourishing. I am just letting people express
their humanity and we call it ‘writing columns’.

Unlike that person’s boss (spoken of above), I simply
have allowed a place for a group of people to be human.
We are all close friends, some of which have never
met in person. We’re just a bunch of teachers, scholars,
webmasters, designers, artists, poets, musicians,
and technicians who believe we have something to say,
and so try to say it. We are passionate and lively.
We write because we want to, because, in a sense,
given our lives outside of the Web, what else are
we going to do if not write? Wait? God forbid.

Written on the Soul

Journal Entry: January 27.
: What is the most important trait
a writer can have? The courage to be, the courage
to look at the world, and himself, as it really
is, in both its deepest beauty and is darkest ugliness.
Or is that the courage to become, not be? Self-creation.

Does it take an ego to write? I am embarrassed to
even write those words, it’s such a cliché
phrase. I can truly say that I have never written
out of ego. So let me put it this way, “Does
it take courage to write?” Yes, absolutely.
If in fact when a writer gets a column he begins the
process of constructing himself, then he must come
to it with an attitude to, as Kierkegaard would say,
“Choose thyself.” And choosing to be yourself,
that is, choosing to become yourself, to test
your limits, to put yourself in situations where you
can fail, and to make it public, is one of the hardest
things a person will ever do. Many people in fact
are scared to take responsibility for their selves.
They live lives of misrelated selfhood in which they
despair of becoming anything. But a writer is one
who, consciously or not, has decided to take the infinite
possibilities of his future and produce some actualities
from them. No, it’s not ego
that a writer needs. For in one sense, he has no ego
(self) until he starts writing anyway
. You
silly people!

You know… a few months ago I had someone come to
me and say that he hadn’t written much but that one
goal in his life was to try new challenges. I thought
about it. We have very high standards here and articles
get returned to writers all the time (even to myself;
I actually reject my own submissions MORE than the
ones I publish!!). It was a chance, but he seemed
determined. It was a rough start. The first few articles
didn’t see the light of day. But now he has a column
and is an essential part of the publication. I have
seen him grow and learn. Self-actualization? I hate
that term. No, self-creation is a better description.
He has grown, and he wasn’t who he is now back then.
To me that is personally satifying.

So, as I face my own mortality and take stock of
the possibilities I have actualized in my life, and
view the forms I have imposed on the world’s matter,
this publication being one of them, I wonder if it
is a waste of time. The resolute and final answer
is a resounding, “No, I have not wasted anything
of myself by publishing a on-line publication”
And I can say this in a context in which no financial
gain has been made at all. I do not need to be paid
to think I am not wasting my time. Yes, I think these
four reasons why I might think my publication is a
waste of time fail. So with that said…

If we have inspired anyone then Applelust is not
a waste. If we have allowed anyone to express his
humanity, then it has not been a waste of time.If
anyone has learned something from us, then Applelust
has not been a waste of time. If one of the writers
has grown as a person because he or she took on a
column, then my publication has not been a waste of
time. If it has allowed self-exploration at all, to
anyone, then it has not been a waste. In 50 years
when it (and I) are gone, it still would not have
been a waste of time. I’ve not made a penny at Applelust.
And yet I can say it has not been a waste of time.
If I have built a small community, I have been successful.
It’s a community built around an idea, and we’re sitting
here just trying to figure out what that idea is.

Journal Entry: 2-16-02.
– I am home from the hospital.
Thank god. The surgery went fine. They overdosed
me on morphine in the hospital; yes, they mixed
soem narcs in me and I went down fast. That was
a bad trip man! You know what, I am not even going
to look at Applelust for a while. I have enough
to contend with all ready, like just recovering
and getting my strength back. I am going to sit
here and be. I still hurt. But I have a brand new
left shoulde!! A “complete partial” shoulder
replacement. Whew. Brutal stuff, power tools and
all. For the first time in a long time I am starting
to feel like the old Dave again. Less pain. Withdraw
from opiates. Bad. But I’ve been given another chance.
What to do now…

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