24 Hour Web Surf for Pancreatic Cancer: What Did I Learn?

After surfing the web for 24 hours straight for pancreatic cancer [about which, people have said--"I didn't know that's a thing," and they're right... it's not], I expected to glean a certain amount of insight, both factual and big-picture. Naturally, to know me is to know that I retained very little of the former and way too much of the latter. Here are some bullet points:

  • Surfing the web for 24 hours is really fun and easy. The benefit of "research projects" meant that I continually had things due, which made time dissolve like butter in a radar range. Had I been barred from presenting anything to show for my 24 hour info-bath, it might be a very different experience. Maybe next year I should try the surf "Brewster's Millions style".

  • The other thing that made time whiz by is social networking. Had I not been allowed to check Facebook (which I did probably every twenty minutes for fifteen minutes a stretch), time would have felt much longer. I think the 'digital party' atmosphere which I created in and around my Facebook page made it actually feel like I was at a sort of social function. Which is suitable, because it was my 30th birthday, and even though I make a point to avoid birthday-mongering, I'd be lying if I said my yearly Gregorian roulette-logo doesn't alight some neural pathway remnant from pre-adolescence. Next year, if I want it to be like a real marathon... no socializing!

  • Wikipedia may be un-reliable, it may not be scholarly, and eading it may not make me smarter. But I will say two things in its defense: 1) It probably makes me more informed on average to have occasionally incorrect data mixed with generally verified facts--like the mental nutrient version of a tall glass of orange juice mixed with a splash of Pepsi. 2) Even if lots of the information on Wikipedia is wrong, Wikipedia gives its users the sensation of understanding which--for any topic less important than the correct dosage of heart-pills--is of the same quality to you and me as understanding based 100% on verified facts. This shade of post-modernism may seem like an unsatisfactory philosophy, but that's only because it has the sensation of being unsatisfactory. The downside of having a hypothetically incorrect list of Acadamy Award winning supporting Actors (in the real Wikipedia, this is a heavily policed and assuredly correct list, for what it's worth) is that you might look like a boob at a specifically unlikely cocktail party.[1] The UPSIDE, however, of having this list... is of a purely subjective value scale ranging (perhaps) from 0: never reading it-- to 100: the names on this list help you make mental connections stimulating further research on a killer masters thesis and resulting career-- to 1,000: the list settles your OCD and allows you the first peaceful night's sleep in six years. Basically, Wikipedia will crush in any cost-benefit analysis, and I personally find its "surfabilitiy" to be a euphoric enhancer of my thirst for knowledge and an experience of data that borders on psychedelic.

  • While I talked about the general digital-party atmosphere of my 24 Hour Web-Surf, I was humbled by a donation from a family unknown to me who lost their wife/mom just a day prior. This important reality check levelled my occasionally ego-centric thought process which attempts these feats of agency as part of active creation of my own personality. So with the nonsense of this marathon's conceptuality tossed aside, the reason I choose to champion pancreatic cancer research is because humans crave narrative. More than perhaps any other modern illness, pancreatic cancer is simply a death-lottery with no screening, no known behavioral correlation, and very little in the way of time between diagnosis and the terminal stage. It is the terrorism of the disease world, not unlike the two snipers from the Washington D.C. area who went around picking people off just for the chaos of it. The reason terrorism is such a higher national priority than, say, poverty, is because poverty sorta makes sense. It may not be fair, but there's an understandable system with steady predictors. Terrorism, on the other hand, is a force of random annihilation inserted into a system which can't account for it. It is uncivilization personified, the un-ravel of our growth as a species. Comedian Pete Holmes has talked on his podcast about why The Joker is Batman's greatest villain... Regular bad guys who break the rules for their own gain are an explicable part of civilized structure. They have a value system which allows for their incorporation into the human narrative. But Batman's greatest evil isn't greed, and it isn't violence. It's disorder. The Joker has no incentives other than the unravelling of civilized order, which makes him Batman's biggest problem and greatest philosophical enemy. After all, Bruce Wayne watched his parents get killed by a mugger, not by some enemy of the Wayne estate, or some grand-larcenist after the family fortune. It was some jackoff with a glock who wanted three-fiddy. [2] So bringing this back to the pancreas, I admit to being held bond to the human addiction to narrative. As a thirty year-old who has had a position high enough on Maslow's hierarchy of needs to enjoy the luxuries of perpetual existential horror, I feel compelled to exert myself towards the continued erection of our narrative scaffold. It's why I blog, it's why my mind is never present in the moment, it's even why I behave in seemingly bizarre ways from time to time as I navigate the human petri-dish... and it's why I chose to punch pancreatic cancer in the chops with a thousand dollar fist made of friends and pixels.

One last thing. I feel it is worth mentioning that there is a lot of independent sketch comedy and music on the interenet. Like, A LOT. And some of it is actually quite good. If you are putting something creative out there for the purpose of promoting your talent, why not dedicate it to a cause that's important to you? Isn't your goal to get a lot of people sharing the video? A lot of times I find something funny but not so funny that I re-post it on facebook. Or I'll find a charity that seems like a good cause but not quite in-the-moment compelling enough for me to donate or tweet it. But if I found a song or comedy sketch that I SORTA like, and it's supporting a cause that I ALSO sorta like, I'm way more likely to promote the video if it's a combination of creativity and philanthropy. Think of all those Tim and Eric ads for Absoloute vodka. They basically went viral despite being 'a crummy commercial'. But if your sketch comedy group released all its youtubes with a link to 'please support cause X', then all the other supporters of cause X who remotely enjoyed your video will be sharing it. And all your hardcore fans who even remotely support cause X will be all the more active in helping you promote. If you're rolling your eyes at the idea of some glib marketing trend featuring fevered egos of phoney do-gooders, you're really not thinking fourth dimensionally. Do you really think Mrs. Sanders will be cranky that her son's leukemia trial was funded in some microscopic part by GroinClown's youtube series I Threw My Wallet at a U-Haul? Are the sacred and profane required by some ends-over-means ethic to stay seperated on opposite ends of The Internet?

All I'm saying is that if you're in the creative sector, support a non-profit. Worst case scenario, it does nothing to help the charity... or your videos. You're out two minutes of extra work. Best case scenario, you have a mutually beneficial collaboration with a popular cause.


[1] Odds are--for the average Ignatious Reilly who's just interested in looking smart--this auto-boobification at a social gather won't even register.

[2] Or something like that.

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