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Wisdom Coupon, Delillo

“We had TV but what had we lost, all of us, when we entered the camp? We’d lost our appendages, our extensions, the data systems that kept us fed and cleansed. Where was the world, our world? The laptops were gone, the smartphones and light sensors and megapixels. Our hands and eyes needed more than we could give them now. The touchscreens, the mobile platforms, the gentle bell reminders of an appointment or a flight time or a woman in a room somewhere. And the sense, the tacit awareness, now lost, that something newer, smarter, faster, ever faster, was just a bird’s breath away. Also lost was the techno anxiety that these devices routinely carried with them. But we needed this no less than we did the devices themselves, that inherent stress, those cautions and frustrations. Weren’t these essential to our mind-set? The prospect of failed signals and crashed systems, the memory that needs recharging, the identity stolen in a series of clicks. Information, this was everything, coming in, going out. We were always on, wanted to be on, needed to be on, but this was history now, the shadow of another life.

“Okay, we were grown ups, not bug-eyed kids in tribal bondage, and this was not an Internet rescue camp. We lived in real space, unaddicted, free of deadly dependence. But we were bereft. We were pulpy and slumped. It was a thing we rarely talked about, a thing that was hard to shake. There were the small idle moments when we knew exactly what we were missing. We sat on the toilet, flushed and done, staring into empty hands.”

— Don Delillo, from his story, “Hammer and Sickle,” in the current issue of Harper’s. Read it!

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