Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Macro Lens

I'm feeling resistance to my post-per-day commitment. It's Sunday. I have a lot of other things to do on Sunday. It seems like a bad idea to carve out as much time as it would take to grow any of these awkward, haphazardly organized ideas into deliverable posts.

There's one here about internet addiction. It starts well, noting that the image of a test monkey hitting a bar is precisely reminiscent of my email checking habits, but then becomes quite incomprehensible as I introduce the narrative of the first time I tried to quit smoking. At age 18, I stood up on a chair in a theatre management class and announced that I was quitting, following some purely intuitive theory that publicity would hold me accountable to my decision. I lasted about a month. How to fold that into my aggressively publicized plan to quit the internet?

And here's one titled -- somewhat pretentiously, I notice now -- "The Illusion of Ease." This one was born when I started listing things that would truly be harder to accomplish without the internet. Unfortunately, each of these "difficulties" have essentially dissolved under examination. I talked about how I've just now finally started to submit my poems to literary magazines, and how am I going to keep doing that without the internet? But then I mentioned that problem at the dinner table, and my rascally brother Jacob (again!) reminded me that the library organizes periodicals by subject. I can walk to one place and leave with submission information for every literary journal carried by the Boston Public Library. That isn't harder than surfing the internet. It's much, much easier.

Consequently I started looking for a whole post's worth of tasks that will be easier without the internet, feeding my imagination with the known truth that websites do their best to keep you as long as they possibly can, and maybe we're all doing things the absolute hardest way. But I was no more able to prove the second hypothesis than the first. Grrr. It's so difficult to write engaging posts when the world just refuses to line up to support my most clever ideas!

Finally, unrelated: an unfinished post on the joys and difficulties of life without a cellphone. And this is probably where I should have started, because some things about this are really, very fun.

Nick and I had arranged to meet at 11AM, at the corner of Water St and High School Ave. I, coming from the ceramics studio, was on time. Nick, coming from home with both kids in the car, was not on time. We had a very exciting place to go and I really didn't want for us to be late. But there was absolutely nothing I could do.

Miraculously, calling on every "deep resource" that I had, I sat down on a pile of pine needles on the street corner and did a sitting meditation. I'm lousy at meditation. I'm very good at daydreaming. As Nick describes it, "You don't clear your mind. You move your mind." But with no phone, no camera, and nothing to write with or on, I couldn't think of anything else to do. I figured that a busy street corner was as good a place as any to fail to meditate.

Although I hardly achieved any degree of mental silence, I did log some wonderful details, from the sound of leaves scraping the sidewalk, to the concentrated heat on one eyebrow from the late morning sun, to the open-mouthed smirk of the delivery driver who made a U-turn right in front of me, making no secret of his plan to tell a story of his own, about me.

When Nick pulled up close to the curb and I jumped up to greet my very hungry baby and my very unbalanced life, which so bravely refuses to fit neatly into blog posts, I did feel a little calmer. I felt a whole lot calmer than I might have otherwise, had I spent that time pacing circles, or helplessly watching the numbers change on my electronic time keeping device.

Some days I think this experiment will bring me to some insight regarding the deepest rhythms of the world, or the movement of power through previously invisible channels. I imagine myself making everything fall into a pattern, like a great Periodic Table for the Humanities. But today, marking one unusual victory, I'm actually feeling appreciative -- even protective -- of my tiny, awkward life. Today I am still wearing the macro lens that I found so reassuring in my meditative (ish) triumph on a street corner, and am thinking that if I could focus on growing myself to some small degree, instead of ordering the forces of the planet, then I might be better satisfied with my results.

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