Jonathan Franzen Knows What Love Is

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Photo: Getty Images

To be fair, he knew he was facing an uphill battle: "Very probably, you’re sick to death of hearing social media disrespected by cranky 51-year-olds," Jonathan Franzen begins, in an essay adapted from the commencement speech he delivered last week at Kenyon College, published today in the Times. But he went for it anyway:


"Courtesy of Facebook, the verb 'to like' [transformed] from a state of mind to ... commercial culture’s substitute for loving ... But I fell in love with birds ... Whenever I looked at a bird, any bird, even a pigeon or a robin, I could feel my heart overflow with love ... My love of birds became a portal to an important, less self-centered part of myself that I’d never even known existed. Instead of continuing to drift forward through my life as a global citizen, liking and disliking and withholding my commitment for some later date, I was forced to confront a self that I had to either straight-up accept or flat-out reject. Which is what love will do."

Alas: Middle-aged, super-successful, straight, white man, with the best intentions and lovely rhythm, advocates for passion over apathy, to a room of fidgety twentysomethings; twentysomething bloggers gently mock it on the Internet; and the world turns.

Technology Provides An Alternative To Love [NYT via Runnin' Scared/VV]