Okay folks, let’s face it. It’s not just kids addicted to screens.
Yes, let’s admit it. Who among us — no matter what our age — still reads books, real books, not books on screen, but the ones with physical pages, that carry heft and weight in the material world. I sure don’t. I try to. Sometimes I do even succeed (google “book review exopermaculture” and you will see a few that I did read). Yet my cousin Ben has sent me two books in the past month, both of which I cannot imagine reading all the way through. Oh I want to! I mean I know he sent them for a reason. And of course, I will dip into them, like I do all the books that catch my eye, or that others think should interest me. I go there for a quick fix, a stimulus to which I can respond, instantly, all the while my mind roving restlessly. What’s next? What’s the next fix?
Twitter especially has ruined my capacity for sustained attention. Twitter is like a slot machine; what’s that next tweet, the one coming the very next second, going to reveal, or induce: A state of shock? Surprise? Thrill? Dread? Fury?
On the other hand, it is my practice to notice how a particular item induces a certain feeling; I pay attention to that, that feeling — and to what “triggered” it. Which in turn, will engender the question, “Why that trigger?” What does it mean?
That’s what I always end up with, WHAT DOES IT MEAN. And always, all so-called meaning is not only provisional and kaleidoscopic, but, depending on the depth or extent of the framework I place around it (and that framework is usually unconscious, and so, once identified, worth probing, digging into, deeper and deeper down), that meaning shifts.
Actually, it’s not that I’m no longer capable of sustained attention. I just can’t seem to do it with the printed page! It might be that I (and we?) are reverting to pre-print days, when, especially in winter, we sat around in the dark, telling stories of the ancestors, building collective memory, savoring our bonds.
But wait a minute! Back then we sat around in caves, or tipis, or yurts, together, connected, in families, tribes. Now, except for Christmas and Thanksgiving, most of us sit around alone, while psychically, weirdly, connecting to the whole of humanity! What? Huh? That’s not possible, of course. Yet each of us has our own way of visualizing this massive audio event that never stops and never begins either, just drones on and on, buzzing the ear whether or not we are paying attention.
So to me: yup, alone, I tend to listen to the audio of audiovisual presentations, usually on my ipad, especially at night, after I’ve gone to bed. I must admit, I do relish this time, and remain with eyes closed, both relaxed and attentive, present all the way through — or almost all the way through; and if not, if I think it’s important, or intriguing, I will go back and listen to the part I missed, again. And, I use my ipad to fall asleep, too. Just the way I used to use books to fall asleep. And I turn to the ipad instead of a book when I awaken in the middle of the night, and search for new audios that might attract me. If I find that the audio I’ve picked does truly turn me on — if it offers something startlingly new, or an addendum to a point of view I’m already provisionally solidifying; or alternatively, if it completely, utterly — and in a compelling manner — contradicts what I thought was “real” — then I stay awake. If not, then I fall asleep, just like I did formerly, with books. I usually manage to get seven hours of sleep, despite at least two hours awake, absorbing stories, in the middle of the night.
BTW: I now find it difficult to watch a movie all the way through as well. They usually only last 1.5 to 2 hours, and at least in western culture, except for “art films,” tend to have an emotional or intellectual structure that builds, climaxes, and then fades, with of course, a little ripple at the end. In other words, the plots and character development of most regular films are so very predictable! Especially when compared to original series with four or five seasons of one hour weekly shows. So delicious, when a series is good! But movies, at this point in my life, and in the life of our culture, I usually watch for just a few minutes and then already bored, return to the ipad.
So, though movies are too predictable (because of the time restriction), I contrast that with some screened series, especially some of the early ones, like Deadwood and Six Feet Under, both of which I found utterly compelling and fascinating all the way through. At last, character development that goes on and on! At last, interpersonal and social dynamics that offer a continuous flow of ascending/descending complexity! Like real life! But, damn it, I decided as a matter of principle, to get off Netflix around nine months ago, because of the weird changes I noticed there. And I haven’t bothered to find a substitute.
So, it’s back to the damn ipad! That’s the kind of virtual experience I crave, apparently. And the internet, let’s face it offers mind-boggling immensity. Billions of little silos bouncing off each other, some with walls, some with membranes that breathe. I hope my silo is one of those! Yes, like everybody else I have my favorite blogs and alt-news sources. In fact, it’s difficult for me to break into new directions on the internet, even though I know the whole wide and deep world is there, just at my fingertips, if I would only branch out and away from the familiar. I puzzle over my reluctance.
But hey! I have enough trouble deciding who to “trust” as it is! Like everyone, I’m aware that anything, literally anything, can be fabricated, that fear porn and hate porn infect all sorts of sites, that clickbait tends to rule. I try to avoid all this, of course, and choose only certain people and certain sites to “follow,” sometimes in order to see if I really do want to pay attention to them; and that depends on me being able to become at least somewhat aware of their bias, their typical “point of view,” i.e., “where they are coming from,” the specific quirky or cynical or vibrant point in the immensity from which they are viewing, scanning the skies above, and the earth below, for items of interest to them, to their perspective. I like to think I can eventually detect the main bias of any blogger or any website, and then ascertain its formation through the holding of certain values, which I do or do not share.
To me, values precede ideas; they both attract certain ideas to them and not others, and they make some ideas more meaningful than others.
If I feel that someone’s values are all too predictable, and easy to assess, then it means to me that they are shallow, not thought through, or seriously held. And, usually, polarized. Boring. I move on.
If I do sense a resonance, and feel that possibly I might share a person’s, or a website’s values (rare!), then I might follow them, at least provisionally.
If I feel that someone’s values are strange, but interesting, I might follow until I decide whether my discomfort is just because I’m too old, or stuck in my ways, or prudish, or academic, or “superior.” And if so, I’ll probably continue, for awhile anyway, to follow their work, just to expose more fully my own prejudice! And to ask myself to decide, in that case, whether I should still hold it!
But if my discomfort comes about through a sense that they are sensing a reality larger, deeper, wider than the one I have heretofore entertained, and if what they seem to be ascertaining intuitively excites me too, then I will definitely continue to follow them. Not because I’m interested in coming to a conclusion, but because, in their lead, my explorations of the immensity we are all swimming in opens further.
Yes, I like to remember: “Not all those who wander are lost.”
For about two years now, I’ve been well aware, scarily aware, really, how my own writing “style” has changed from decades ago. And I find such comfort in returning to the long, slow, swelling cadences of that bygone era, that I decided to do what I have learned since, thanks to a reader, Tony, to call my “recapitulation project,” which is to go back and find, sometimes even copy over, old essays, both published and unpublished, from my own literary corpus, most of them since the mid-80s, and post them on this exopermaculture blog under the heading AK Reader, plus old astrological essays that I file under the heading Astrology. There are hundreds of them to archive! Plus several full-on book length manuscripts! My intention is to share them all, either as single essays, or as e-books.
It’s my contention, and some of my readers also tell me, that reading this “old” work from the past (though on a screen, not in a printed volume) itself offers a decided balm for the 21st century human; that it helps to calm, center, and regulate the inflamed mind. Besides the ideas themselves which are very much mine, wrestled from conscious awareness of ongoing experience, it’s the way the ideas were presented back then, that counts. The rhythms, the tones, all much more flowing and slow moving than now, though not nearly as complexly multi-dimensional! For that is what I have gained since then, a capacity to go up and down the elevator of consciousness to intersect other dimensions, and then to suddenly, without warning or conscious intent, jump or cascade from one dimension to another, drawing the reader along in the choppy waves of my wake.
So yes, the ways I think have fractured into a million pieces, and continue to splinter further. How to center myself inside the maelstrom that appears to be gaining momentum and complexity hourly, minute by minute? Daily routines help. And that includes a two-hour commitment to “physical culture,” which, for me, features a morning walk after breakfast with the dogs (3 to 4 miles), and one hour of yoga/chikung/taichi before dinner. Both. Daily. I never fail to live up to this task of paying attention to my physical body. Nor do I forget that the body itself includes the unconscious; indeed, one could say that the body IS the extension, in the material world of the unconscious — and furthermore: that the unconscious spreads out to include all and everything . . .. So, besides getting enough sleep, eating nutricious food, and staying present during daily errands, I utilize my two “physical culture” hours to discern, absorb and integrate bits and pieces of the digital phenomena that my mind bounces off of during during hour upon hour of surfing, usually while lurking, the internet.
Of social media, I only do twitter and facebook. Twitter is new: though I joined it years ago, I ignored it until about six months ago, and it’s morphed into my go-to source for my kind of “breaking news,” or for “news” that I think is “fit to print,” or at least fit to pursue further, deeper. Which means, that my twitter sources, of course, those I “follow,” are what count. Facebook? I go there mostly to keep up with friends and places I have known forever, plus my siblings, cousins, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. — the photos of them and their families as they morph through time. I haven’t yet succumbed to instagram, and don’t even know the names of other social media.
And then there’s Q. I do follow Q, ever since the beginning when I discovered it just as it was popping in; and, aside for some wavering here and there, I have remained attentive to and fascinated by its cryptic message stream that seems to engage near-continuous, startling synchronicities while remotely viewing and sensing both space and time.
I used to connect posts on this blog to facebook, and once in a while post one to twitter, but I decided a few years ago that I’m not really interested in building a “wide” following; that my effect, as someone riding the edge of this culture is, and has always been, homeopathic; which is just fine. That way I can maintain relative anonymity, and yet still carry a charge.
So, as to what stimulated this post: . . . my old activist Idaho friend (with whom yes, I connect with on fb, as well as via email, and sometimes I even see him, at family gatherings (he is step-dad to one of my nieces)) sent me this link, from sott.net, a site a regularly follow, but not so much while I was in Massachusetts. Thanks, Bill Chisholm!
P.S. Oh wow! I just saw on fb an amazing poster, and wonder if it’s true! If so, this startling information makes sense of my question, during our first, first grade lesson in arithmetic, when, as a puzzled, scared five year old, I asked Sister Bernita, a Dominican nun, “But what . . . what is a number?” And she turned around from the blackboard, and stared at me, for a long time, for an eternity! — before answering, with finality: “That is not a question, dear.” My ears were burning. My classmates were staring at me. From that moment on, mathematics became a floating world, with no reference to reality.
This poster that connects numbers with geometric angles made by the crossing of straight lines arranged in a certain pattern, not only makes sense of my question but finally, after 70 more years of wondering, answers my childhood question. YES! A first!
So, not being able to read or write in the slow, rhythmic, thorough way the way I used to maybe gets balanced out by discoveries like this one, coming in at random, “out of the blue,” thick and fast, over and over and over. No end to it. This revelation, this mystery.