Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Initiate Shutdown Sequence

Sounds awfully cold and technical for making a major change in one's life, doesn't it?
I think so too.

Sorting through things, packing, discarding, setting aside for the future - this always brings me face-to-face with the past, what was and what could have been. I spent a good deal of time on the phone with Leslie yesterday, but came away with unresolved feelings of remorse for things forgotten or unsaid. I'm filled with regret for being too divided, too splintered, too preoccupied with the trivialities that spew from our hasty lives and myriad devices to focus on what is truly important.

True, the Internet is a valid tool for many things. I spent time today finalizing our honeymoon. Does it really matter where we go and what we do, if we are both not fully present in those precious moments? This is my problem. How do I resolve it?

For years my bride-to-be has been talking to me and sending me letters and clippings about some of the things we are reading about more and more now; about the perils of technology and its potential ability to strip us of our humanity, even while it "connects" us in ways not imagined a flicker of memory ago.

While packing yesterday I came upon the manila envelope that contains Leslie's letters and clippings, and found a newspaper article - from July 10, 2005 - that is prescient in its assertions and painfully relevant to what is happening to us today.

Patricia Dalton, a clinical psychologist in Washington, DC, wrote then in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Ever since the first electric bulb shed artificial light, we have been detaching ourselves from our natural rhythms. Business travelers cross time zones and go right back to work; adults extend their hours by bringing work home with them; teenagers contact friends anywhere at any time of the day or night.

Until, that is, they end up in therapists' offices, stopped in their tracks by physical or psychological dysfunction. Many blame themselves when things go wrong. They minimize the impact of our supercharged environment on their psychological well-being.

The column goes into greater depth about the impact of technology on so many different parts of our lives. "
I don't mean to underestimate the benefits of technology", Dr. Dalton writes. "We can stay in touch with relatives and friends who live at a distance. We can get work done more efficiently. Huge amounts of information are at our fingertips. But the angst and dysfunction I've described are real."

I have worked for many years in professions that seek to either leverage the latest technology for the benefit of moving and evaluating more information, or works hard to keep up with society's leveraging of it for the same purposes. The proliferation of the Internet, and of wireless information delivery, and it's slow, corkscrewing integration into our society, is having some really nasty effects on our abilities to slow down, and enjoy each other in the simplest ways.

This is coming too close to some real issues that I have in my life, and I don't really have enough time to expand upon them here. It's probably a good time to make an exit for a while, so that I can get the things done that are really important, and interface with those people who matter so much. Time to shut down.

Postscript, 3/2/11: Joe and Linda Skinner's column in the February 25 Free Press (not posted online yet), titled "Immortality or Immolation?", makes reference to more recent news stories that reinforce Dr. Dalton's warnings in 2005. Specifically, Time Magazine's recent coverage which reports that children, on average, spend 7 hours a day engaged in various online activities, and ponders the effects on their young, developing brains as a result.
One wonders what the effects could be on an aging brain that is trying to keep up, rather than ignore the revolution.

My friend Linda Skinner, writing in the "He Said/She Said" style that is the hallmark of her and her husband's online dialogue, said it simply and wisely:
"I cannot help but think I would not get the same thrill from a blinky light machine with a faultless memory as I get from talking with you. I don't care how many USB ports you might have, I prefer to be hugged by your warm arms. Although, a cyborg would know how to pile the dishes and load the dishwasher properly."
I'll close with something else that Leslie shared with me. Perhaps it speaks more about what we have left behind than what we have to look forward to. If that's the case, then I think that we, myself included, have left behind a critical part of humanity that may be as unrecoverable as it is possible to turn back the clock.


The Man and the Child
by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It is the man in us who works;

Who earns his daily bread and anxious scans
The evening skies to know tomorrow's plans;
It is the man who hurries as he walks;
Finds courage in a crowd; shouts as he talks;
Who shuts his eyes and burrows through his task;
Who doubts his neighbor and who wears a mask;
Who moves in armor and who hides his tears.
It is the man in us who fears.

It is the child in us who plays;
Who sees no happiness beyond today's;
Who sings for joy; who wonders, and who weeps;
It is the child in us at night who sleeps.
It is the child who silent turns his face,
Open and maskless, naked of defense,
Simple with trust, distilled of all pretense,
To sudden beauty in another's face -

It is the child in us who loves.


Good-bye for now.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

"Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
Mark 10:15 New King James Version

I thought of that verse while reading the poem at the end of your post. Will you blog again?