i’ve got soul but i’m not a soldier
August 22, 2010 § 2 Comments
I took some time off the Internet for the last seven days because I needed to find myself.
I needed to find my Walden Pond. The Twitterverse – too much noise. The silent stalking on Facebook – too damn creepy. The articles, blogs, tumblr, online news – too many thoughts; few of them pleasant.
Of course, completely staying away from the internet is not possible. There is The Email. It seems that it has been decreed that we must all use it, especially where work is involved. But other than that, it was a largely successful experiment. It was… restful. In the mornings, instead of drinking a cup of coffee to news and tweets about news, I watched my dogs romp after terrified tree-shrews in the garden. I know that there’s nothing worse than a pretentious bourgeois urbanite writing about “How I stayed away from the internet… and rediscovered my garden!” but that is exactly what I’m doing. I stayed away from the internet, and reader, I rediscovered my garden.
I am not the first to note that the moment you step away from a machine to which you’re connected to for a large part of the day, you tend to feel more at home in your body. I don’t know how to say this without sounding twee, but the humanness of your human body is returned to you when you disengage from the computer for long periods of time. Thus, when people pissed me off in the malls – as they tend to do here in Kuala Lumpur, Valley of Malls – I simply took a good look at their tired, defeated faces and realised that their expressions mirrored my own. The moment – a few seconds, really – of attention that is required of humanity; the few seconds it takes to look at someone else’s face and reconsider your own response or expression; that is the first thing that dissolves into the ether when you’re plugged into a machine. Which is how I felt, for most of the day, doing most of my work and freelance writing on the computer, switching screens to check email and read tweets, switching screens to read articles and Op-Eds, then taking a break, then deriving my entertainment and my mental nourishment from DVDs watched on the computer, books reads as PDF files. I had forgotten what is what like to just be.
As of now, I’m back in the fray, and it’s already making my head spin. I’m not sure why this should be the case, but I suspect a lot of what I need to learn to do in our new age of digital noise and unlimited information is to learn where to draw the line. Learning how and where to draw the line is harder than it seems; it’s precisely why Oprah has become filthy rich preaching it to millions. But perhaps, with a little Faith, I will find My Way. *cue the violins*
*UPDATED to include this thoughtful rumination by Amit Varma on Coates’ blog post, and also on the nature of society and communication and “internal noise”.