information and revelation…

I think the internet might be sucking the brain from my head. I used to think it was aliens from outer space coming in the night, extracting my brain cells and wiping my memory clean. Now, I’m pretty sure it is the internet or maybe it is the news on the internet. In any case, the brain is being sucked from my head and I am fully on board with it. If I was not fully on board with it I would shut down the internet on my computer and try to reclaim what is left of my poor, soggy grey matter.

The lure of the internet for me is clear; information and revelation. I like knowing more, learning more, hearing more. I want more, more, more. The more I know (or think I know) the more I feed the illusion of power and control. But of course, as that Spiderman movie taught me, “with great power comes great responsibility.” If I know more (or think I know more) then of course I have a responsibility to SHARE that knowledge, don’t I? And so I tweet. I tweet therefore I am (in control.)

The part that worries me though isn’t that I tweet too much or that I have too many crazy political arguments on Facebook. The part that worries me is that when I do sit down to write I find myself stuck after about 140 characters. I find that expanding my thoughts to more than the size of a Facebook post feels overwhelming and clunky. What was my point? Why didn’t I make my point in the last paragraph so that people can get on with their lives? Are you still reading?

Now for a word from our sponsors.

Social media saved my creative life. It brought me back from the unpublished dead more than once when I first began. Starting a blog opened up an avenue to me that did not exist 20 years ago. It was a new road; unpaved and less travelled. These days the “blogosphere” is a super highway; crowded and loud, the air is cloudy and the potholes are deadly. In the early days “web logs” were diaries, private thoughts, writing exercises and perhaps for a number of people they still are, but the pressure now feels global. I have to write with a larger view in mind, I should plan for outsiders reading my work, I should monetize, I should diversify, I should get a bigger server, strive for better SEO, stronger presence, graphic design and clean message.

It’s exhausting…and maybe not really the point of it all anyway.

The lure of the internet also brings revelation. It might just be me but all my life I have lived for the mail delivery. Every day is Christmas when the mail comes. It isn’t that I have traditionally gotten amazing things every day in the mail, it is just that sometimes, I have gotten amazing things; packages, correspondence, coupons, doesn’t matter. The potential for amazing things exists because of mail delivery.

And now, I can get mail every day, all day long, essentially. With the advent of email the potential for amazing things happening increased 100 fold. With the start of Twitter, amazing interactions could happen with alarming frequency. I promise, I will not stop tweeting until I finally get William Shatner to give me a shout out.  It’s a weird goal but a girl’s gotta dream right? Don’t even get me started on the mass interaction bonanza of Facebook. You can keep your Farmville, frankly, but give me the news feed on a slow writing day and I’m a happy camper. I find myself hitting refresh just to see what ELSE is happening in the world.

More. More. More.

The worst part about all of it, the dangerous part for someone like me, who purports to be a writer, is that it all feels productive. Martha Plimpton retweeted me to her followers so I think I accomplished something. 70 people “liked” my post on Facebook so all signs point to affirmation. It’s trite to say that social media and perhaps the internet experience is, after all, a “slippery slope” but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Sometimes “trite” gets it right.

And so what’s the solution then? Quit tweeting? Quit Facebook? Quit the internet? I know quite a number of people who have done just that and lived to tell about it. I still have friends who won’t touch Facebook or Twitter with a ten foot pole. Even my priest gives me grief that I prefer email to phone calls.

It helps, I suppose that I do at least admit the underlying principle to my problem. This underlying principle is easy to put my finger on, it’s a long time issue. In a chatroom full of people I doubt I’d be the only one raising my cyber hand if asked about it.

Online interactions remind me that I’m not alone.

For an introvert, prone to awkwardness in real life settings, the internet is safe. The internet is for those of us who look inward first. It is stunning how easily I can turn a phrase and show my worth on the internet while in person I struggle with the right facial cues. In person I feel I am navigating the world from inside some giant machine with arms and legs I cannot control or recognize. Alas, it’s ironic then, that being online really IS me, inside some giant machine with arms and legs I cannot control or recognize. It is the illusion of control and power, the illusion of profundity, the illusion of productivity. And this is the sound of my brain being sucked out of my head; the fear that absent the constant affirmation of computer information and digital revelation I will simply fade away to nothing, that I would find myself sitting in a quiet room with no good thoughts of my own, with no real hands to hold, no soft words whispered in my ear…

This is not a promise to stop tweeting or stop posting on Facebook or stop refreshing my email or even to stop writing on my blogs. This is simply a moment of reflection, a nod toward intrinsic information, a quest for real revelation on a road that is overgrown and untended but not forgotten.

“Although the road is never ending
take a step and keep walking,
do not look fearfully into the distance.
On this path let the heart be your guide
for the body is hesitant and full of fear.”

― Rumi

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on sleeping and waking…

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

From Essential Rumi
translated by Coleman Barks

A friend who was getting off an antidepressant after many years told me not long ago that he felt as though he was finally “waking up.” He had not realized how asleep he’d been all those years. He was sleepwalking, he was numbed to the world, to his wife, to himself. This was protective at first, it saved his life perhaps. The struggle now though was to walk through life finally awake, feeling the pain and the hurt and not dying in the process.

The reminder to me when I read this poem and when I think of my friend’s experience is that dulling the pain has its moments but those moments have to be temporary.  It cannot be the full story of me. As much as I joke to my husband and my friends that I’d rather medicate my pain- order another margarita, sneak another piece of candy, sit in my car outside the gathering of people I’m avoiding, watch reality TV- I know it only prolongs the pressure. It doesn’t dissipate anything, it just pushes it down the road. I have to want to stay awake and in the absence of that, sometimes I have to do it anyway.