Job changes: sometimes, you enter into them, and then pop your head up to find that months have flown by while you’ve been trying to maintain just the most basic variety of sure-footedness available. Unfortunately, that hiatus from the land of the living doesn’t necessarily entail reassuring transformations having occurred in said land during one’s absence.
Most immediately, I’m speaking of the various linguistic and existential travesties witnessed the other day over the course of an hours-long meeting, to which people with professional titles such as “innovationist” and “futurist” were invited. As ordinary words that had been twisted into new and puzzling forms flew past me, I realized my rapidly deadening soul was seeking support and understanding in at least two literary universes. First, I generally wondered whether I’d fallen into a David Foster Wallace story, most likely “Mister Squishy,” in which the people before me were taking the empty phrases they were spouting—and hence, themselves—seriously. I didn’t have much time to recover from hearing the advice from one side of the room that someone’s idea should be “dimensionalized as a separate strategy;” following upon this recommendation, a co-innovator chimed in with the praise, “I think it’s a powerful brand attribute.”
This, combined with the push to replace human interaction in education by “operationalizing virtual delivery modules,” convinced me that I do not want to live in a world designed and run by these fools. But realizing as well that such a world is precisely the sort that’s already upon us, I told myself that I would soon be tromping off to the reservation—the one featured in Brave New World, that is. All of a sudden, I realized that if, for example, medical treatment must entail my having to own a smartphone and have a chip embedded somewhere in order to record every last vital sign, then I’ll be checking out and doing the best I can with ineffectual old remedies in the middle of some place that still has a field of grass and a tree and no screen anywhere. At least that way, my senescence will be my own, and I can provide easy evidence to others that yes, we’re all going to die, and there’s nothing your smartphone can do about it.
I’ll admit that my hostility was not well controlled during this confab, and that even this late in my life, I could stand to develop more of that maturity that allows highly evolved individuals to confront tiresome and even dangerous people with productive grace. But at least the straw of vocabulary that would have broken the linguistic camel’s back was never uttered in my presence. Had the term “creative”—the ad/”incubator” world’s most offensive neologism—made an appearance, all attempts at civility would have ended. A cadre that flippantly turns adjectives into nouns, and artistic and creative talents and desires into nothing more than tools to further their plans for existence, will get nothing from me but an obsolete, real-time punch in the collective gut.