I’m working on stealing my brains back from the claws of algorithms, clickbait, and social media’s two-minute hates. For years I would reach for my telephone the moment I woke up, groping for it with a junkie sense of need. I’d lie in bed scrolling through godknowswhat because our screens have hijacked the decent impulse to bear witness.

But I’m finally making a change. These days I shower and perform my meditations and feeble prayers. I put some coffee in a thermos and walk to the park, where I take a sip of coffee, chew a piece of nicotine gum, and write with a pen until the page is full. Then I look at the sky, hope for the best, and fire up my phone to let the world into my head. This little routine has made a world of difference, and I’m recording it here because arriving at it was incredibly hard for me. Relapse lurks at the edges each morning.

Do our technologies simply amplify age-old human instincts, or do they create new desires, new behaviors? Was my habit of waking up and scrolling through headlines any different from, say, shuffling to the doorstep in 1952 to fetch the morning paper? There might be a parallel, but today’s media consumption feels far more neurochemical and nerve-wired.

Tonight the president is doing his paranoid schtick in a Phoenix megachurch, and they’re cheering phrases like “Kung Flu” because Christianity in America has become bugshit crazy and cruel. Meanwhile, the term ‘culture war’ continues to circulate through the ether, as if two artistic sensibilities have been drafted into battle. As if the rejection of bare-minimum reason and decency is some kind of culture.