Life as It Buffers

YouTube screenFrom Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island (upon seeing the dreaded swirling circle on his computer screen):

But on this thought’s outer reaches lay a much less reassuring counter-thought: what if it were just a circle spinning on my screen, and nothing else?   What if the supply-chain, its great bounty, had dried up, or been cut off, or never been connected in the first place?  Each time that I allowed this possibility to take hold of my mind, the sense of bliss gave over to a kind of dread.  If it was a video-file that I was trying to watch, then at the bottom of the screen there’d be that line, that bar that slowly fills itself in– twice: once in bold red and, at the same time, running ahead of that, in fainter grey; the fainter section, of course, has to remain in advance of the bold section, and of the cursor showing which part of the video you’re actually watching at a given moment; if the cursor and red section catch up, then buffering sets in again.  Staring at this bar, losing myself in it just as with the circle, I was granted a small revelation: it dawned on me that what I was actually watching was nothing less than the skeleton, laid bare, of time or memory itself.  Not our computers’ time and memory, but our own.  This was its structure.  We require existence to stay ahead, if only by a nose, of our consciousness of experience– if for no other reason than that the latter needs to make sense of the former, to (as Peyman would say) narrate it both to others and ourselves, and, for this purpose, has to be fed with a constant, unsorted supply of fresh sensations and events.  But when the narrating cursor catches right up with the rendering one, when occurrences and situations don’t replenish themselves quickly enough for the awareness they sustain, when, no matter how fast they regenerate, they’re instantly devoured by a mouth too voracious to let anything gather or accrue unconsumed before it, then we find ourselves jammed, stuck in limbo: we can enjoy neither experience nor consciousness of it.  Everything becomes buffering, and buffering becomes everything.

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