I’ve been cycling through a variety of topics that are personal to me. I’ve touched on journalism, technology (several times) and its effect on our lives, weather and our rugged winter of 2014-15, and even, Harry Potter/Richard Nixon. Oh, and last Friday, I worked in one of my infrequent blasts about music, at least the indie rock variety that has been a touchstone of my life over much of the past 3 decades.
While this topical list might seem somewhat random, I think there are threads that gather together its seeming disjointed-ness. One of them is being present—as in the here and now. To me, this means trying to live, as much as possible, in the moment. This is harder than it seems, at least it has been for me.
When I was in my teens and even my 20s, wishing away time was common, as in “I wish I had a million dollars” kind of wishes—the dreams without any foundation wishes. Being young, this isn’t an issue at all, at least you don’t sense time’s limiting qualities. Age and being finite are out there, somewhere on the horizon. As a result, we spend time wishing for things that may, or may not be in our best interests.
One day, you wake up and you’re in your 40s and eventually, you hit the magical half century mark, and you start thinking about whether what you’ve been doing for the past five decades has any staying power. There’s another element, and I’m not sure if it’s our culture, or not. We begin pulling back, lessening exposure to the day-to-day realities. Or, we find other escape mechanisms. We create distance for ourselves via entertainment, and as I’ve been touching on over the past six weeks—social media and technology platforms like Facebook. Inhabiting the virtual world can feel more comfortable and even safer than confronting the realities of the real world. This conservative approach and mitigation of risk accelerates aging. Have you ever been with a seasoned citizen that was still full of piss and vinegar and living life to the fullest? What do we say? “He/she seems so young,” right?
There are people that read my criticism of technology and Facebook and think, “who the fuck does he think that he is?” Honestly, I don’t think I’m better than anyone else. I just have come to realize that life is worth engaging with. Relationships and conversations across a table, over coffee and cake, are worth maintaining and cultivating. I’m not interested in turning over my life to Google’s algorithms, or vomiting out tweets every 12 minutes. I want to live my life on my own terms, as much as this is still possible, here in the 21st century. And yet, this is becoming increasingly difficult to do, or it takes being intentional to be successful.
Last January and February, I felt like the walls were closing in on me. It wasn’t a fun period. While I managed to make it to March, and my winter blues eventually dissipated, I was determined to experience winter differently this year.
While it’s been a bear of a winter, at least over the past seven weeks, surprisingly, I’ve enjoyed elements of my recent work routine. There’s been shoveling, gathering wood, feeding the chickadees and nuthatches, and chasing away the squirrels (who have just started showing up the past week, or so). At the same time, part of me is starting to become weary about building wood fires with the remaining green wood in my wood pile, and over the past week, I’ve been bitching and complaining a bit—just ask Miss Mary about that.
Life lived in the real world is much messier than the virtual version. 2015 seems to be some kind of watershed year for me. I’m not sure what’s ahead, but I plan to spend as much of it as I can planted in the day-to-day realities, in touch with my surroundings, and limiting the artificial elements that others seem to be so taken with.
A writer that I’ve followed in the past, Morris Berman, wrote about becoming a New Monastic Individual (NMI). There are aspects of swimming against the tide and going against the grain that Berman highlighted that I find appealing.
Is it even possible to remain human in our 21st century world of increasing fragmentation and alienation? Will I ultimately win the battle and not become a slave to machines, or is Google and its tech cohorts too powerful to fend off?
Riffing off the almighty Flipper once again, “Life is the only thing worth living for.”