The Voice in the Ear

Talking, talking back, and so on. Taking it all too seriously.

Occasionally I get strange email from Ftrain readers. Today came this advisory slice:

"the world is a lot bigger place than you allow yourself to believe."

That's all there was to it, one line, sent anonymously, submitted twice. The writer expounds upon my life for a span of 13 words, without a clear rhetorical strategy. He or she or it read over the sentence five or six times before clicking the "send" button, making sure the sentiment was accurate, then decided that I needed to hear this. I wonder what effect it is supposed to have?

I mean, I saw The Matrix too.

It's great to receive these things, which I both laugh at and listen to. I get many of them, people trying to contextualize my life into their own, throwing me odd, uncredited lines of criticism, or long, long emails about their sex lives, or their anger with me, or their jealousy. I always feel a little sad for anonymous emailers, who fear placing a name with their emotions or ideas--afraid to be wrong, perhaps, or dreading a response. Sending anonymous email has even more pathos than online journaling.

I'm sure the writer is right, and the world is much bigger than I believe, or allow myself to believe. Who can live in the whole world? I can't take East Timor into myself, or the scope of French literary theory, or the poverty and extreme riches of India and Pakistan, or the full emotional needs of even one other human being. I can't hold onto the concept of Allah without slipping, while the bearded man in the little corner store on Smith St. has no problem telling me that God is great as as I buy a bottle of diet soda.

Right now the world is 3:54 AM--but only 1/24th of it. My back itches, and it's time to work on something else.




Ftrain.com is the website of Paul Ford and his pseudonyms. It is showing its age. I'm rewriting the code but it's taking some time.


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About the author: I've been running this website from 1997. For a living I write stories and essays, program computers, edit things, and help people launch online publications. (LinkedIn). I wrote a novel. I was an editor at Harper's Magazine for five years; then I was a Contributing Editor; now I am a free agent. I was also on NPR's All Things Considered for a while. I still write for The Morning News, and some other places.

If you have any questions for me, I am very accessible by email. You can email me at ford@ftrain.com and ask me things and I will try to answer. Especially if you want to clarify something or write something critical. I am glad to clarify things so that you can disagree more effectively.


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© 1974-2011 Paul Ford


@20, by Paul Ford. Not any kind of eulogy, thanks. And no header image, either. (October 15)

Recent Offsite Work: Code and Prose. As a hobby I write. (January 14)

Rotary Dial. (August 21)

10 Timeframes. (June 20)

Facebook and Instagram: When Your Favorite App Sells Out. (April 10)

Why I Am Leaving the People of the Red Valley. (April 7)

Welcome to the Company. (September 21)

“Facebook and the Epiphanator: An End to Endings?”. Forgot to tell you about this. (July 20)

“The Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. An essay for TheMorningNews.org. (July 11)

Woods+. People call me a lot and say: What is this new thing? You're a nerd. Explain it immediately. (July 10)

Reading Tonight. Reading! (May 25)

Recorded Entertainment #2, by Paul Ford. (May 18)

Recorded Entertainment #1, by Paul Ford. (May 17)

Nanolaw with Daughter. Why privacy mattered. (May 16)

0h30m w/Photoshop, by Paul Ford. It's immediately clear to me now that I'm writing again that I need to come up with some new forms in order to have fun here—so that I can get a rhythm and know what I'm doing. One thing that works for me are time limits; pencils up, pencils down. So: Fridays, write for 30 minutes; edit for 20 minutes max; and go whip up some images if necessary, like the big crappy hand below that's all meaningful and evocative because it's retro and zoomed-in. Post it, and leave it alone. Can I do that every Friday? Yes! Will I? Maybe! But I crave that simple continuity. For today, for absolutely no reason other than that it came unbidden into my brain, the subject will be Photoshop. (Do we have a process? We have a process. It is 11:39 and...) (May 13)

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