In the summer of 2009 I was confined to my bed for three months after experimental knee surgery. It was an profound experience, and given the required painkillers, not surprising that my thinking leaned toward the philosophical and spiritual. On several occasions, I was overcome by intense feelings of compassion—not only for myself, but also for all of the suffering people in the world: victims of war, the sick and the elderly. I wondered if I would be able retain this level of empathy once I was back on my feet. And I was humbled and grateful to gain this kind of insight without the long-term physical consequences. I endeavored to make the most of my days between the sheets.

Naturally, I spent a tremendous amount of time online, consuming everything from sci-fi movies on Netflix to tech evangelist videos from the latest TED conference. I entertained myself by making iMovies with photos from past vacations, re-organizing my hard drive, writing artist profiles for magazines and starting a blog called The Immaterialist.

By definition, immaterial means “of no substantial consequence,” or “not consisting of matter.” And in the Age of Technology, an immaterial existence is not such a radical idea. To my bedridden self, sustained almost entirely by digital files, streaming music, and strange Percocet-addled memories and dreams, it was par for the course.

When I launched The Immaterialist, I envisioned that much of the writing would be tech-related. Another source of inspiration is fashion photographer Scott Schuman’s blog The Sartorialist. Just as Schuman follows emerging trends worn by stylish people in the street, I pictured The Immaterialist tracking nascent patterns in the digital space. My concept of immaterialism is also related to my uneasy relationship with consumerism (more on this in future posts). For now, suffice it to say that I have a lot of stuff, and I’m often toying with the best way to let go of these possessions. Is a photographic archive sufficient? Is the memory of a thing enough? It’s complicated.

Later, I stumbled across a philosophical theory called immaterialism from the early 18th-Century. The basic idea is that material things have no reality except as mental perceptions.  Aside from finding the theory, which was conceived by Irish philosopher George Berkeley, extremely complex, it appears to be one of those manifestos embraced by crackpots, zealots and outsiders. Not what I had in mind!

But pre-existing philosophy aside, and surgery long behind me, I’m still intrigued with my own take on immaterialism, and hopeful that I can start back where I left off. My first few efforts were tentative and I dropped the inquiry before I’d scarcely begun. Though I’m not sure where this is going, what do I have to lose? With no subscribers to date, I’m free to shout in to the virtual wind.

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