I heard today about an old, old woman who lives in a nursing home with a failing kidney and a lot of nurses and doctors. She’s got bed sores and she’s not eating. For the last week or so, the doctors have been telling the family that she has twenty-four hours to live, and every day, as we all probably would, the family waits for her to die. When she doesn’t, feelings are mixed and complicated. Why hasn’t she died yet? When will she die?
I don’t know if I need to put it in my will or what, but I would like to just die. No warnings or hourly updates. I remember two things the week before my grandma died: she looked at the ring Aaron put on my finger a month before and exclaimed,“Thank God!” and, delusional enough she was perfect and poignant, she looked me in the eyes and said, “You are my best friend.” I want moments, not countdowns. Time, not numbers. I don’t want any information shared superfluous to the matter at hand: did I use whatever lucidity I have left to tell everyone I love that they are my best friend.
If knowledge is power, then information is powerlessness. I’m trying to think of one piece of information that doesn’t either make me sad, afraid, anxious, or annoyed. All night while Aaron debuts as the homeless saxophone player in the musical Annie, I’ve been articling items into the category knowledge or the category information:
1) How to knead bread. Knowledge.
2) In July, when the baby comes, whether I’m dilated 2 cm, 6cm, or 8cm. Information.
3) The subtle differences between rationalism and empiricism. Knowledge.
4) The likelihood that I will get cancer from the pesticides on the non-organic apples I bought that were on sale. Information.
5) The price of apples at Fred Meyer this week compared to the price of apples at Safeway last week. Information.
6) What my right-now friends like to do, eat, read, and think about. Knowledge.
7) What my long-time-ago friends are doing, eating, reading, and thinking about right this very minute. Information.
8) The percentage of Labrador Retrievers who get hip dysplasia. Information.
9) Dakota’s favorite place to be scratched. Knowledge.
Some people make information look appealing, but it’s hard to do. Like Ken Jennings from Jeopardy or Click and Clack on Car Talk or the Political Junkie who contributes to Talk of the Nation. But you have to talk really fast, have a faint Bostonian accent, and not be appealing in any other way. When information is rapidly gushing out of one’s mouth, it can be a little fantastical and mesmerizing, but at that point it becomes knowledge, for example, “Hi. What do you know?” “I know information.”
Like an airplane engine. Generally, I don’t like machines, but on the way back from Seattle, I was sitting on the wing of the plane. The engine roared and shook. Like Ken Rudin and all his dates, names, and trivia about the Kennedy family, the engine gushed noise and sent a buzz all the way to my head. I thought, that is a machine. It was so much more than a motorcycle panting exhaust or a coffee pot that doesn’t pour right or a computer with a faulty DVD player. Like a gigantic, machinated bicep, it lifted nearly a hundred people into the air.
So, like machinery, information is okay but only in massive amounts. The problem is, most of us are holding onto one or two pieces a month (FYI: Most eighteen month olds can say about 150 words—no, make it stop!!) that hold us hostage in a cell with bars made of percentiles and ratios and details without main ideas. Distracted by information, it can be hard to know anything.
(Meanwhile, Clara is still my doll. We saw Aaron win over an entire peninsula with his sexy, shadowy saxophone solo last night at the play. We ate Subway sandwiches and went to Jumpin’ Junction with Anna and Kelsey today. Tonight, we hid under the covers and smiled and played peekaboo for almost an hour. It feels so good to have a little thing running around the house in nothing but a diaper and a smile.)