Sunday, 5 May 2013
I’ve been questioning a lot of things of late. I’ve come away with a couple of answers. But I also have a growing list of more questions that’s as long as Jack Kerouac’s original manuscript of On the Road. So many more questions on a continuous scroll … and here it goes unfurling out of my front door and down a couple of flights of stairs onto the street below and then around the bend. I can hear car horns tooting. I can hear dogs barking. I can hear the ravens talking to one another. But what does all of this mean? (Keeping in mind this may be another question I add to my roll of teletype paper.)
One of the things I have been questioning is online presences. Another is our Stone Age brains and how they are responding to the contemporary.
I am someone who is cautious about doing something just because everyone else is doing it. In fact if everyone else is doing it you can be sure that I won’t be doing it and I will only be implicated once it becomes absolutely necessary.
The first case in point was that I refused to buy an iPod. I eventually succumbed when I was about to spend an extended time overseas and could not think of living without my Mr Dylan collection close at hand. An interesting postscript is that I have since lost most of this collection because of technological disasters and subsequent involuntary upgrades. Such is life. [And yes, I refuse to buy another round of albums that I already have in my possession just because I can no longer use said compact discs on said new computers or listening devices. I will not play the game of mass consumerist.]
Another case in point is Facebook. Facebook and I never had an easy relationship. I very reluctantly created an account in 2010 because I was unable to access an organisation’s details without becoming one of Facebook’s minions. When I joined I decided to be proactive and to use it as a networking tool, as so many writers do. The reality, however, was different. Or more correctly my expectations of networking via Facebook challenged the reality. Before joining Facebook I didn’t realise how many writers would spend the day discussing their cats, deliberating on what they had for breakfast, and sharing their latest webcam photos.
I persevered though and despite my prickliness towards Facebook I too posted stupid images and crazy youtube links. Then in late 2011 I experienced a moment of clarity when I logged on to Facebook one afternoon and was directed to my newsfeed where I read that one of my Facebook friends (or more accurately someone I said hello to at an event every now and then) had just been pushed on a Melbourne tram. She had sent this via her iPhone on said tram straight after said push. Hmmmm …
I had two corresponding reactions when reading this and they are as follows: (1) We all have bad days or uncomfortable moments, but surely you could talk about this incident to someone you are actually close to and someone who means something to you rather than sharing this with 200+ Facebook friends? And, (2) There is something seriously wrong going on in the world when someone has to share this piece of trivial news via their iPhone to 200+ people they barely know.
About five minutes later I posted my own message on Facebook explaining that I was going to take a break from it and up until the last few days I have done this (give or take a small handful of messages and friend acceptances from people I actually met and actually like). But I have now deactivated my account and will no longer use it despite the fact that Facebook assures me that it’s still there ready and waiting if I decide that I can’t live without it.
Similarly, I recently removed my Myspace account that I never used anyway. I also deleted my photoblog, A Spill of Light, and I unsubscribed myself from a myriad of regular email newsletters. Likewise I deleted 90 per cent of my web bookmarks and many of my mobile phone contacts. And I also decided to create a new email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) because today’s blog post will be the last one I write for The World as a Room.
I am letting go of my online presence with the exception of libbyhartfile because this acts as my website and provides details about my writing. As for my Stone Age brain, it is slowly but surely wanting something much more real, much more tangible and something that is akin to rumination.
I’m not looking for the new and the next, and I never was. Better, faster, sooner—forget about it, it doesn’t interest me. But despite this I get dragged into the ‘upgrade for the sake of upgrade’ mentality and backbiting of the big IT companies because I am a consumer of their products. It does not go unnoticed that this blog looks as it should when viewing it from Google’s Chrome platform while it looks slightly askew when viewing it from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer—and there’s not a damn thing I can do to fix or improve it. This appears to be a recent formatting change by Google and one that felt so tiresome to me that it reinforced my decision to disband this blog.
I don’t think I’ll be writing on Sumerian tablets any time soon, but I do want to eliminate as many distractions as I can—and constant connectivity is one of them. As such I am in the process of finding a workable tech/de-tech balance that will support a more mindful approach and thoughtfulness to how I live and what I write about. And I want to live more intentionally and with more simplicity. Patience. Slowness. Depth. Extended curiosity. I want to take the time to reflect rather than to react. And I am hoping that my work practice will benefit from this too.
I recently returned to Australia from an overseas writing residency in a remote part of the world where life was simpler purely out of necessity. The living conditions were basic and during a northern winter conditions became primal to a degree, whereby heat and the notion of fire—that faithful and burning need to provide warmth and wellbeing—was ever present. And life was very low-fi, in so far as it was quiet, nature ruled supreme, and technology was almost non-existent bar the very faithful analogue radio. There was no Internet or television for miles.
The words on everyone’s lips were ‘austerity measures’ and of talk of an unknown future. My own life took in such rhythms and preoccupations. I absorbed the severity and grew to understand what it is to have very little. I celebrated nature despite its fierceness and brutality. And I came away with the notion and practice of surviving on less so much better than I had initially foreseen. I also left knowing I needed not much at all, yet the importance of real things and of real connection was imperative. It is what matters most in my world. What matters most to you?
Image: Untitled by Nasha Lina (detail)