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Jerome Christenson: On earth or in the cloud

Jerome Christenson: On earth or in the cloud

From the COLLECTION: Recent Jerome Christenson columns in the Daily News series
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It was an extraordinary bit of befuddlement.

For several moments I didn’t know if I should sit down, turn around or just stamp my feet and cry. In a flash of realization, it hit me. I had left my watch at home.

Jerome Christenson

Jerome Christenson

Oh, it’s not just an ordinary tell-you-what-time-it-is watch. This is a whiz-bang, time your heart, count your steps kind of watch. A watch lacking only a tri-corder and phaser settings for me to command, “Beam me up, Scotty,” and in a twinkle and a flash, I’d be partying with the Klingons.

And I’d left it on my dresser. So there I was, standing there staring out at the freshly frozen lake, watchless and befuddled. Futility clouding each prospective step.

It’s become a standard admonition at the close of each routine visit with my long-time physician that he schedules my next appointment with the admonition that, in the future, he wants to “see less of me.” The problem is, under certain circumstances, I tend to be an exceptionally law-abiding sort – particularly when it comes to Mr. Newton’s First Law – Objects at rest tend to stay at rest…

In a fairly transparent attempt to assist me in transcending this impulse toward indolence, several years past my daughter presented me with a birthday wristband – a sort of digital guilt-induction device, a tireless display and reminder of each day’s physical sins of omission and the means of attaining corporeal grace and the extension of temporal life.

So for years now I’ve gone about my business with this silicon confessional strapped to my wrist, attuned to it’s electronic admonitions and awards.

I was reaching the point on my path where I anticipated the reassuring buzz and vibration that signaled I’d done my daily bit for good health when I realized that all that surrounded my left wrist was shirt cuff and jacket sleeve. It literally stopped me in my tracks. I looked back at the two-thirds completed circumnavigation of the lake with the forlorn sinking sense that, without that micro-computer strapped to my wrist, none of those steps – and none of the steps between that spot on the shore and the dresser in my bedroom – were going to “count.”

It’s an embarrassing admission to say that I had to pause and actually think it through, reason it out to assure myself that I would reap the benefits of an hour’s exercise even if it went uncharted – that, yes, I really did go for a walk even if there is no digital record attesting to it.

Even so, when I got home and slapped that motion sensor back on my wrist I did feel a certain sense of reality returning.

I didn’t give that a thought until a while later I happened across a video of the GOP faithful at a Trump rally. The video was shot by an attendee who’d gone to great trouble to be in the presence of his hero and to be among a throng of other true-believers, a great portion of whom were also intently watching the great man on tiny screens held high over the heads of the screen holders in front of them, all apparently oblivious to the fact that the carnival barker-in-chief was bleating live and in-person not more than 10 yards in front of them.

Sort of like me looking at my wrist rather than over my shoulder to see how far I’ve walked.

The screen, it seems, has come to make reality more than real. The proof is in the digitizing – a rally, a walk, the murder of a black man by a uniformed cop – if it exists in the cloud it occurred on the earth. It’s become our reality — enhanced, edited and improved. If it’s on the internet, it has to be true. It has to be.

If it’s not, we might want to worry about that.

Christenson, former reporter and editor of the Winona Daily News, grew up in Caledonia, Minn.

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