From The Chronicle of Higher Education, a surprising historical metaphor for the difficulties we face in making good use of the Internet.
The metaphor is Nero's court, and the model for success is one Gaius Petronius Arbiter. He is supposed to be the guide for how to deal with these massive feasts without being numbed by them. The model is better than the others around Nero's court; and yet, as the end of the piece shows, ought to be deeply alarming. Decadence has a high price for even the best human soul.
I'm thinking about this in terms of last weekend's forced detachment from the world. Along about Sunday, I realized that there must be some interesting news about how the South Carolina primary had gone -- the matter was much debated the week before, and here it had been over and done with and I had no idea how it had turned out. Instead I was rereading a work of history on an old Anglo-Saxon blood feud, and enjoying it. I had forgotten the author's insights into how Northumbria was divided, and how that fit into the question of feuds and politics in the generation before the Norman Conquest.
It may be that the real answer is not in refinement of decadence, but in periodic detoxification. I like to take to the road at times in the year, and go for a while into the mountains or some wilderness. It is always good, but much of the year it is not available -- we are expected to remain connected at all times for professional reasons. I have managed to resist this more than many, but even I feel often required to be abreast of the situation, the latest detail.
The table groans, and so do we.