Of course I am blogging about this, but it is no longer morning, so perhaps that is okay. Yesterday I read this essay by Rebecca Solnit, which I really loved. If I were to use some of the Christian language I grew up with, I felt convicted by this essay – it made me think about how I was living my life. Especially this part:
I forget practical stuff all the time, but I also forget to look at the distance and contemplate the essential mysteries of the universe and the oneness of all things.
When I was talking to my husband D. about this essay, and Rebecca Solnit in general, we decided that reading her essays can start to approach the feeling of reading a grumpy old person’s rant, but it is so poetic and beautiful, and she always takes it one level deeper, that you don’t feel indulgent.
The fact that I spent yesterday evening watching six (yes, 6) episodes of Mad Men after running a lot and meeting a friend for afternoon drinks – I couldn’t really do much more besides watch Mad Men – meant that this morning I felt glutted on internet. And media. And the non-tactile experience of consuming using only my eyes, but not my fingers or brain. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is important to veg out. But sometimes you need a more tactile and interactive experience.
So this morning I got up, and I read the TLS. It comes every week in paper form (I don’t really read the online version, although I could), but it comes to my London apartment. So it piles up, and then it is a lot of reading. And there is always something in there to concentrate on: in this issue, an essay about Shklovsky that makes me almost want to go out to the bookshop and buy some of his work, and an essay on a book about the history of exorcisms in Western Christianity. It covers such a wide, diverse group of topics, which is what I like so much about it.
I listened to the radio. I drank coffee. I stared out the window.
Then I wrote some letters, responding to correspondence. I love reading about previous times, when people would go through the letters they had received and respond to them. I imagine them at little antique writing desks, with pots of ink. It is a lot more romantic than my daily battle with correspondence, in the form of endlessly proliferating email – this business email that blocks out my ability to express myself in writing because I have already used the words I have that day.
It is lovely, and I have some observations about this experience:
- I don’t want to be a Luddite, and to ignore all the wonderful things that the internet gives. I love the internet, and I love how many more people I can know and track in their life. I think of Facebook, for example, as a village that is centered around me: It is my couple thousand people living together in a virtual place (if you take my friends and all the members of their family members I can keep up with), and I can peek in their warmly lit windows and watch them making dinner. I can wander into the town square and hear the debates, and decide if I want to participate or wander away (close the window). But I do not want that virtual village to replace my slower, in-person contacts and friendships. I do not want this village centered around me to replace the randomness of real life. And I do not want to forget the reality that the universe that is not centered around me, and should not be.
- In the first TLS article, I found myself mentally hyperlinking. A word would make me think about someone I should text or email. A mention of something would make me want to look it up on wikipedia. It was a pretty long article, and it made me want to check my email. I resisted all of this, and relaxed into the textual rhythm, but I found that disturbing nonetheless.
- I wrote letters to the pen pal I have through the Letter Writers Alliance. I had the strong urge to look up what I had told her before, as if I were writing a memo. A letter is not a memo, though, and there is something magical and almost forgotten about the feeling of sending something and never seeing it again. Remember what that was like? I think there should be a special email account you can get that does not save sent copies of your messages. How strange the feeling was of recognizing that I don’t remember what I wrote and therefore who I was in January, and then remembering that I am me, and that whatever I wrote then was as much me as what I am writing now, even if I cannot remember it.