There is an American folk belief – or perhaps it would be better to say, a folk legend of a folk belief, because we always ascribe it to other people, quainter people, who just would be silly and/or wise enough to have such beliefs, like maybe the Amish or the Native Americans – there is an American folk belief that when you get your picture taken, it takes a bit of your soul with you. That is, the story goes, why the [insert quaint group here] refuse to be photographed. And, as we tell this story to each other, and laugh at just how quaint the Quaint People are, some of us, some of the more spiritually or superstitiously or neurotically inclined among us worry, is this actually somehow true? Is a streak of our consciousness forever aware of that eternal moment, trapped, unable to experience time and at some level aware of its, our, own predicament? I mean, if it really was true, like, how would we even know?
That, at least, is what Megan was trying to say to her friend Peter. In this particular iteration of the conversation, the belief was ascribed to the Amish, and Megan was to the point of freaking herself out a little bit, because what if it was true after all, and aren’t the Amish rather wise? Peter, meanwhile, was worried about his friend, and trying to figure out if Megan should smoke more weed, less weed, or at the very least different weed, because while this conversation started out fun and funny, the level of dread and earnestness had somehow crossed over into the category of “too real.”
Now, dear reader, you might assume that this conversation was happening in person. If only it were! Peter and Megan were, in fact, hanging out over video chat, an irony that was lost on Megan but gradually becoming real to Peter as frame after frame of his likeness, and with each frame a fresh slice of his soul, was digitally transmitted to an NSA database. There, it – or rather he, because someone’s soul is the most live part of them and deserves an animate pronoun – there, he, or at least part of him, sliced up and disorganized to the core, experienced for the rest of his existence, the institutionalization of scrutiny and suspicion, served over a bed of the blandest, most bureaucratic apathy.