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10.06.2022

The Sapphires of the Instant

Where is your treasure? Where is your heart? 

Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This poses the question for the digital age. Lockwood is often referred to as ‘the poet laureate of Twitter’ and her novel, which recently won the Dylan Thomas Prize, explores her complicated relationship with the platform.  

The novel’s lead is ‘extremely online’, addicted to scrolling through the ‘avalanche of details’ available through ‘the portal’. It is a space in which ‘to delight and to be delighted’, to make ‘a new kind of connection’. For reader, writer, and character alike, it is hard to shape a single narrative from the bewildering combination of the intimate, mundane, inane, hilarious. Yet it is so immersive that the unnamed ‘she’ of the novel becomes almost lost to reality; in Lockwood’s poetic description, her ‘arms [are] all full of the sapphires of the instant’. 

Then something happens to turn the whole thing on its head. There is a baby. An illness. Mortality wrapped up in a tiny bundle. The main character is pulled urgently back to the real world around her. The details she wants to give her attention to are not absurd memes found on a screen but details of the ephemeral little life in front of her: fingertips, ears, the sound of laughter. 

And yet the baby is dying, scarcely given more time than a meaningless meme. The all-consuming love and grief are so intense that they seem to expose the vacuous nature of ‘the portal’, and yet it also provides much-needed distraction and comfort. 

Whatever we offer our time and attention to, we come to value – be it the details of the latest social media updates or the details of a newborn baby. ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). 

There is only one place where our treasures are safe. Neither in the online world – where trending hashtags change by the hour – nor the physical world, where the thieves of illness and death can steal and destroy. ‘Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven’ (v20), Jesus reminds us.  

Whether we connect with people online or ‘IRL’, we can reveal to them a current, and eternal, reality in which they can truly delight and be delighted. Whether the relationships we form with those on our frontlines are enduring or fleeting, we can share the hope, and the reality, of true connection. And if no one is talking about this, then it’s time we did something about it. 

Rachel Smith 
Rachel is a part-time writer and a full-time mum. She attends King’s Church Durham.

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