Discover more from The Drugs Don't Work Anymore
I love you, Wikipedia
chicken noodle soup for the sick brain
Most of the things I know that I like, I know mostly from Wikipedia. That’s an awkward phrasing but basically what I mean is something like this: I have read Fear and Trembling a few times. And I feel wonderful when I read it, like something opens up in the world. It’s like stripping naked and swimming in a cold stream under the stars. But I don’t always have time for that. And I know this is awful, but I feel slightly better about everything when I read the wikipedia page on Fear and Trembling. It’s a solid page that illustrates the major themes with quotes and, frequently, it wards off that existential crisis nibbling at the edges of my baseline anxiety. It’s not the same as reading the book, but it’s something. I even feel better when I read the Fear and Trembling Wikipedia page than when I read the Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Kierkegaard. So I’m not just in it for brevity.
This is getting all geek-y. But I just mean to say that there is some stability in Wikipedia. Do you, like me, wake up in the middle of the night and want to know all about the Lindbergh kidnapping? Wikipedia is there. Or about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle? Wikipedia is there. Does your mind fly off a hundred different ways at once? Wikipedia is the anchor that keeps it on the ground that says human beings don’t know a lot about the reality we inhabit, but we know a handful of things and here are our best explanations for them.
Doctors will tell you that Wikipedia before bed is wildly unhealthy habit and does awful things to your body’s circadian rhythm. But I have a toddler, I haven’t slept in a year. My body’s rhythm is more of a frazzled humming. And I imagine this is why encyclopedias were created — for insomniacs. Or for people in bathrooms. You’re a normal person, right? And as a normal person, don’t you ever find sitting yourself on the toilet and wondering about the fate of Napoleon’s Penis? Wikipedia is there.
Everything you’d want to know is on Wikipedia and most of it’s true. The links are all right there, as long as you’re media literate, you can easily sift the objective truth through the subjectivity. And this is how, for me, an internet hole opens.
The Drugs Don't Work Anymore is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
I think, for most of us, there’s a desire to replace a useless spot in your head with something useful. For example, you don’t need to know long-division. I learned long-division at ten-years-old and I haven’t used it since. But it’s nice to have in my head a Wikipedia article
I fucking give money to Wikipedia, I have for years. It’s not that impressive now because I have a little bit of money. But do you know how outrageous that was when I was twenty-seven? To be an uninsured millennial and donate money to a thing you can use perfectly well for free. And I’m blocked from editing Wikipedia articles because I used to screw around with them in college when I was bored in class — nothing too nefarious. I mostly just edited the pages of dark-age popes to say they were widely suspected of being wizards.
Did you know you can create a reading list on Wikipedia? These aren’t shareable like playlists on Spotify but I wish they were. I wish somebody had built up a reading list of Wikipedia pages on the Oppenheimer movie.
There’s a certain level of depth to Wikipedia a sort of rhythm that it flows. On the page for atomic spies — which you might reasonably stumble down after seeing the Oppenheimer movie — the intro closes with “It is worth noting that many scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project were deeply conflicted about the ethical implications of their work, and some were actively opposed to the use of nuclear weapons.” Those are the ideas that interest me. The ones that are worth noting.
Part of they joy of Wikipedia is knowing it was assembled. In the best pages, you can spot the authors. They have different voices. The grad student has a different tone than the armchair professor. And neither of them sound like the guy making jokes about the popes being wizards.
Anyway, I’ve spent a lot of time on Wikipedia this week because I’m sick as a dog. My head feels like it’s swelling into a balloon. I’m too sick to write anything for money. I’m too sick even to read the book I’m about 500 pages into. I’m too sick to do much of anything and yet Wikipedia is there.
Anyway, I’m sorry this isn’t longer, but again, I’m sick. In lieu of more thoughtful words, here are five random wikipedia pages from my reading list titled Nonsense