Below is just the heading and opening paragraph of a post by M. Oniker that gives voice to exactly how I and many of my friends have been feeling. She gives a link to an article she is responding to, but if you follow it, please come back to this page and click on the link below it to read the rest of her essay.
People here are funny. They work so hard at living they forget how to live.”
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)
How was life when we didn’t know everything? Back when there was no TV and when news got shared once a day on the radio and once on the door stoop in the morning? We were so busy with our own lives that we didn’t spend every minute of every day bound up in the ills of the world.
Violence was a neighborhood game of cops and robbers, but nobody really ever identified more with the robbers. It was more a game like kick the can, where you were trying to keep something away from the other side. Violence was not the point and when I look deep, I know that a game of cowboys and Indians was no more an expression of prejudice than listening to a World Series game of the Yankees against the Dodgers was.
To rephrase a quote from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), I have to say that people of the twenty-first century are funny. They work so hard at living they forget how to live. I include myself in their ranks. I am so tied to my computer that I panicked recently when I spilled a Coke on it and had to go a few days without. My day felt strangely empty even though I had an entire ocean and beach spread out before me and a small town full of people to talk to, a porch full of art materials. But, I’d become so accustomed to my blogging world and even to talking throughout the day via Skype to a very dear friend, that I didn’t know what to do with a day that was just a day in one place with one set of people around me.
Existence has become a thing that has no value unless I can write about it and I don’t seem to be able to write anymore unless I am writing into a computer and sending experience out into the world. I am committing, perhaps, even more of a sin than those teenagers glued to their hand devices, texting their friends. They, at least, are connected to someone, whereas I simply talk to my computer and send out copies later.
Who is most at fault is not the point. The point is that connection with the world at large that keeps some of us from a simple and private connection to the world immediately around us. We know so much about so many things we really don’t have much control over, that we have become voyeurs. The entire world has become grounds for our gossip. We are fascinated by the gory details, shocked but in a sort of fascinated daze that keeps us many times from realizing that this is more than a movie. This is reality. Someone’s pain. We feel it for those seconds and minutes and hours and days that the horrible action stays in the headlights of this rushing vehicle that is our world, but then we pass on and it is as though one program has ended and the next begins. We think about world events in episodes. Off with the old one, on with the newest slaughter or murder or coup or genocide or monster storm or hostage situation.
In the meantime the minor tragedies around us sometimes go unnoticed. We are so fixated on the stories of major tragedies on the other side of the world that we forget the real people and small dramas going on around us. We watch nature shows on television while ignoring what wildlife still exists around us. We suffer the passion and pangs of romance as onlookers. Observing the great chefs of the world takes up time we could have been baking chocolate chip cookies. Watching Honey Boo Boo in horror becomes a punishment in comparison to sitting in a playground, watching children living the world in real time.
Yes, what I write is hyperbole, but I think it is true, to a varying degree, of most of us connected to the technical world. It is like a horrible accident passed on the hightway that we are told by our mothers to look away from. Who can resist? No matter how much the gory scene may invade our dreams and turn them into nightmares, we cannot look away. And now with TV and the Internet, we could spend 24 hours a day watching such horrors. And often do.
There is such a thing as being too connected to too large a world. This is why I disconnected the dish network and cable years ago. The bad news still leaks through, as does the good news, but in quantities I can take and that leave time for real experience and a perhaps misplaced faith in the world and human goodness and yes, even my own goodness. I am beginning to try to spend more time away from the computer–to simplify, if that is possible in this busy cluttered mess of a life I’ve once more collected around me.
I find the valuable elements slipping away and less energy to collect more around me. Friends die and move away both physically or emotionally. This is the process of life. But it is also the process of life to stay engaged in a real way and to fight for meaning and value in our lives. This should not be so hard. There should not be so much to plow through to get to ourselves and what is really important. The Mr. Deeds quote, in modern context, might be altered to read, “We work so hard at observing and being in contact with the world at large that we forget how to live in that world.”
The Prompt: Silver Screen–Take a quote from your favorite movie — there’s the subject of your post. Now, write!
If I should find a time machine, I might or might not buy it.
And even once I bought it, I might or might not try it.
To think about the future always makes me sweat,
for I am trepidatious about how bad it might get.
I foresee live-in bubbles for one or two or three
who merely turn on YouTube for whomever else they see.
Pollution would be too advanced to venture far outside—
the world turned way too violent for most folks to abide.
If I visited the future, chances are I’d see
the death of friends and loved ones—perhaps the death of me!
See our country crumble due to earthquakes or to slaughter.
See Monsanto poison food crops after ruining our water.
Our seasons turned to drought, tornado, hurricane and flood—
by turn made dry or spinning or blown away or mud.
I know there are alternatives, but I can’t help but doubt
that current politicians will let it all work out.
But if I went into the past, perhaps I’d also rue it.
I might just be happier if I chose to eschew it
I might see as a toddler that I was just a brat—
a little squirming dervish—graceless, spoiled and fat.
I might hear that my singing voice was just a bit off-key
and see the looks the others gave as they were hearing me.
If I encountered me, we might just end up in a fight
like ones I had with sisters—and discover they were right!
Yet, this probably won’t happen and perhaps it might be fun
to have another look at what I’ve seen and what I’ve done.
And though to relive some things would leave me feeling queasier,
I know that it would certainly make memoir-writing easier.
What fun to relive Christmases from year to year to year,
To see my mom and dad again, what’s more, to get to hear
all the stories of my dad and this time to record them—
to spend time with my sisters and to show how I adored them.
What fun to watch me with my friends— Rita, Lynn and Billy—
to see when we were children if we were just as silly
as little kids I see today who just seem to be reeling
with energy and foolishness and excesses of feeling.
I’d drive on roads with fewer cars to spots no longer there.
Go roller skating in Draper gym. Fall on my derriére!
I’d have a Coke in Mack’s Café and then I’d shop at Gambles.
Buy love comics at Mowell’s Drug and then expand my rambles
down to the playground monkey bars, where I would do a flip.
Then to the Frosty Freeze where I would have another sip
of orange slush and then I’d have to buy a barbecue.
(I fear that in my tiny town, that’s all there was to do!)
I’d skip ahead, then, many years, to 1971,
and fly off to Australia for adventures in the sun.
Then Singapore and Bali, Ceylon and Africa.
See everything as it once was, when it was new and raw.
Regrets? Of course. I’m human, and so I’ve had a few,
but over precognition, I prefer déjà vu.
The Prompt: One-Way Street—Congrats! You’re the owner of a new time machine. The catch? It comes in two models, each traveling one way only: the past OR the future. Which do you choose, and why?
mad religions and heretics
engineering our genetics
I hate to say it
but every day it
is getting worse
this global curse
and human capers
in all the papers
so all in all
it’s an easy call
I find less friction
in reading fiction!
The Prompt:The Great Divide—When reading for fun, do you usually choose fiction or non-fiction? Do you have an idea why you prefer one over the other?
The Prompt: Overload Alert—“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” — Gertrude Stein. Do you Agree?
There is new news all day long, for every single minute.
By radio and television, we are immersed in it.
Even on the Internet, they repeat and repeat
every warlike action, every athletic feat.
We know before their spouses do when politicians slip,
view every starlet’s nightclub spree via a Youtube clip.
Stock market scams and Ponzi schemes and other news that scares
as big guys pick our pockets in order to line theirs.
Sans Blackwater and Monsanto, we would be better off,
but we’d still be deluged by news of Enron and Madoff!
We consult Wikipedia to see what it might say,
keep up with the Kardashians a dozen times a day.
It’s hard enough to keep abreast of those they might be bedding,
let alone to know the date of their most recent wedding.
Who has gained a pound or two or who’s the most hirsute?
This information makes our lives a Trivial Pursuit.
There are so many details that come at us day and night,
filling up our minds until our craniums feel tight.
We’re stuffed with sound bites, news clips and every TV show
until it is inevitable. Something’s got to blow!
No wonder that we can’t remember names of our best friends
or what we came out shopping for or how that movie ends.
We can’t remember song lyrics or what we meant to do
when we came in here for something. Was it scissors, paint or glue?
I am forgetting everything I always used to know.
Every mental process has just gotten kind of slow.
It’s taking me much longer now to ponder each decision—
a factor that the younger folks consider with derision.
Like-aged friends agree with me, for they all feel the same.
They all have minds stuffed just as full, and we know what to blame.
There’s too much information, and like any stuffed-full larder,
to locate things within them gets progressively harder.
If we could sort our minds out the same way that we pack—
putting unimportant stuff way at the very back
and all the more important things in front and at the top,
we wouldn’t have to search our minds and wouldn’t have to stop
to figure out the names of things or places or of folks,
and then we wouldn’t be the brunt of all their aging jokes;
but it seems that we can’t do this so perhaps the answer is
to just turn off the TV news and gossip of show biz.
The scandals and the killings—all the bad things that astound us—
we’d leave behind to concentrate on happenings around us.
We’d notice more the little things in our immediate world:
the spider in the spider web, the bud that’s tightly furled
and notice when it opens, and the dragonfly that’s on it
and take a picture of it, or perhaps construct a sonnet.
See the children who are hungry and instead of our obsessing
on matters where we’re powerless, instead bestow a blessing
on all those things around us where we have the power to act.
When we see whatever needs doing, to take action and react.
Perhaps then all the horrid facts that rise up in the mind
will settle to the bottom and then all of us will find
the keys we’ve lost, our glasses, and remember why we came
into this room and how to recall every person’s name.
And all the time we save we’ll spend on the important things
and feel the sense of purpose helping others always brings.
The world is too much with us with its bad news of all kinds,
and all this information simply freezes up our minds.
Perhaps with less input, there would be less facts to astound us
and we could concentrate on what’s important close around us.