Tag Archiv: technology

Saving the World

Creación de Adán by Michelangelo

Creación de Adán by Michelangelo

Recently, a radio program caught my attention. CBC was interviewing, George Monbiot, about “the age of loneliness.”  Mobiot worried that our competitive culture is driving us apart. He argued that we’re designed to be deeply social and that loneliness is dangerous.

“It’s true,” said Girl one as I turned off the ignition. “We really are living in the age of loneliness.” And off we went to wherever it was we were going.

Having heard the first part of the interview, I found myself turning to my own thoughts about loneliness. Not as much around how much we compete with each other as much as how much we ignore each other. I hesitate to discuss my significant and deep concerns about social media, smart phones. I worry about sounding like someone who makes you want to change the channel. But all those virtual “friends,” aren’t helping. We’re getting too distracted to listen. Or think about what we’re doing.

I am profoundly troubled by parents unable to put aside internet access to focus on their children, by children and adults more taken with the world you can see than the world you can touch. We fail to recognize  real people because we cannot separate ourselves from technology that preys on our insecurities, feeds our addictions, and lulls us into levels of shallowness and disconnection that would have been unthinkable even twenty years ago.

Surely the rising levels of speech impairment in children bear a connection to an adult world too otherwise absorbed to stop, make eye contact, and speak to them. In full sentences. One after another. Without interruption. Watching a father with his daughters grunt pleasantly from his phone I wondered if even the angle of his head tilted toward the phone was resulting in a distorted view of his lips moving to make the few distracted words available for observation.

An older friend has a basket by her front door. Not unlike the guns of the wild west, grandchildren are required to leave their phones at the door. It took extra courage, she said, to require the same of her son-in-law. But what is the point, she asked, of coming to visit me if you can’t just talk to me?

In October, Monbiot published an article in The Guardian about the ravages of loneliness. If disconnection is a matter of life and death, why are we disconnecting? Addictive behaviors aside, what are we medicating for? If loneliness kills, why are we running away from each other? Why are the imperfections of strangers easier to bear than the habits of the person next to us?

If we could prove that the world was dying of loneliness and we were given the strength for one courageous act to benefit humanity, perhaps it should be to look at the person beside us, smile, and not look away. If we survive this, we might try again. And again, until we know each other. Someday then we might wake up to find ourselves embraced in all our failures by equally imperfect people. We’ll realize that we’re not alone, we never were, we just got a little mixed up for a while.

Cows Plus King Equals Fence Considerations

Man Having Just Painted A Fence. By Jean-Francois  Raefëlli

Man Having Just Painted A Fence.                             By Jean-Francois Raefëlli

The wisdom of the cows finally came to me: it’s all about fences. I’m feeling pretty warmly towards fences at the moment. Emergency fencing is keeping the cows home until we can finish adding more durable electric fencing to the wooden fences that border our property. Fences are protecting a pretty big investment, not to mention the local motorists.

Enter Stephen King, whose book on writing I have almost finished reading. There’s lots of advice, specific and general, but Mr. King’s work space admonition caught my attention. Consider this, consider that, he says, but the one thing you have to have if you’re going to write is a door. I’m guessing there are a lot of things besides writing that work best with doors that shut, protecting from distraction.

God interrupts me incessantly with sick kids and wandering cows, but otherwise I have a door. When the kids are at school, the house is empty. I am hard pressed to find enough time to work on my novel right now. Hard pressed enough to feel the nagging of other little doors. (Technically they’re “windows.”) Like any bad habit, it’s crept up on me, but it’s a door alright. A door I’ve started leaving open to the detriment of quiet spaces.

I like the internet. What’s not to like about a free post office? But I long for a world where connectivity is limited to an hour a day. It’s an interruption I ought to be able to control for. But somehow the cows made me realize how much it needs a door. Better yet an electric fence.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the beauty, not just of the post office, but the library. Available whenever needed with some seriously extensive resources. But I wonder if in the internet, humans have invented something which we lack the discipline to access without excess. I don’t know. What I do know, is that plugged into everything I am connected to nothing, most especially my own thoughts or the people around me. Plugged into nothing, everything and everyone remain a possibility.

Ergo, I am currently figuring out the dimensions of a better fence for my library/post office.