Monday meanderings

I was dreaming I had a younger brother named Max Williams who was an actor and drank too much, when our 13-lb gray cat jumped on my stomach and I woke to the smell of coffee.  Weird where your mind can go when you give it free rein. There actually is a Max Williams who’s an actor.  Also one who’s a basketball player, another who’s a photographer, 25 professionals who are registered on Linked-In, and one who’s the departing director of the Oregon Dept. of Corrections.  Ah, Google, god of plenty.

An overcast Monday morning.  When the sun was low on the eastern horizon, bright light and shadows dappled our west wall, but now it’s lost in the fog.  The birds don’t seem to care, chirping away.  Maybe it’s better for them, since the bugs can’t see their shadows and run for cover. Do worms notice shadows?  I could google this, and probably lose an entire hour finding out, but I think I’ll resist.

A quiet day yesterday.  Watched the 49ers opening game against Green Bay, which was quite satisfactory since the Niners won. I grew up in a town that was so crazy for college football (American style) it was hard not to get involved, but now it’s kind of a guilty pleasure, like watching gladiators in the arena.  Theoretically, it’s not about hurting people and they don’t fight to the death, but an awful lot of them suffer life-long injuries and such bad and frequent concussions they develop early dementia. You’d think someone who’s so opposed to violence in the rest of life would forgo this, but every year I eagerly await the opener. Is it boredom?  Not enough drama in  life?

I believe that such standard dictionary definitions of acedia as “apathy,” “boredom,” or “torpor” do not begin to cover it, and while we may find it convenient  to regard it as a more primitive word for what we now term depression, the truth is much more complex.  Having experienced both conditions, I think it likely  that much of the restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today is the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress.  The boundaries between depression and acedia are notoriously fluid; at the risk of oversimplifying, I would suggest that while depression is an illness treatable by counseling and medication, acedia is a vice that is best countered by spiritual practice and the discipline of prayer. —Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me

Not being a pray-er, I would put the emphasis on “spiritual practice,” which I take to mean practices that take you out of yourself and allow a feeling of connection with the universe. If you didn’t suffer from “restless boredom” and “frantic escapism” before, the world of almost instant access to the endless distractions of the internet, such as we now have in the U.S., would certainly give them to you.  Everywhere I go, people are wired in and completely distracted from where they are.  On a recent cover of the New Yorker, a family of four is posing for a photograph, their backs to a lovely ocean view, each looking down at their handheld “devices,” as these ubiquitous thieves of awareness and time are called.  What pleasure is there in that?  But most of us do it a good deal of the time.

Photo credit: Yoshimov

I’m pretty old, so this wired-in universe hasn’t been a big part of my life.  But what about my grandkids?  My eight-month-old granddaughter gravitates toward cell phones and remotes. My son tells me she’d rather listen to music from a cell phone than from the radio. The four-year-old and the nine-year-olds are completely obsessed by electronics. Their lives have TVs with hundreds of channels and DVR to record anything you might miss by stepping outside for a moment or two, Smart phones, X-boxes, Play Stations, video games, remotes of every shape and size.  If they can’t turn on a device, they have no idea what to do with themselves. In the house, anyway.  At least they still go outside and ride bikes.

Well, children are adaptable. They’ll figure it out.  Maybe it’s the exposure they need to live in the world they’ll be in.  For sure it’s going to be different from mine.

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8 Responses to Monday meanderings

  1. What a fun post. I love meandering, wandering ideas that start with pouncing cats and end with “ubiquitous thieves of awareness and time.”

    At 38, I’ve dallied in both worlds. The computer had just made its debut at elementary school level as I was moving on toward junior high. Computer labs and mice called “turtles.” And now we carry small computers around in our pockets. Amazing.

    I am far too attached to my iPhone. It sinks its electronic claws into us a little deeper each day. I’m thinking (as I type this response on my phone) that I need to moderate myself somehow.

    My husband and I love football. That was an outstanding 49’ers game!

    Have a lovely week my friend.

  2. sswl says:

    You think moderation in electronics is easier than in drinking? (Smiling, but seriously wondering.)

    • Oh my, I certainly *hope* so! Because we all know how well *that* works in drinking!

      I do tend toward extremes; if there was a way to quit electronics all together cold-turkey, I’d probably do best that way, or at least to go on a “fast” away from them for a while. I finally broke my Facebook addiction by totally deactivating my account for 45 days. I’m not sure I could last that long without my cell phone though. Maybe I’ll go the kitchen timer route and only check it once an hour. The funny thing is I never talk on it. Go figure. :)

  3. Dawn says:

    No computers in jr high OR high school for this writer. Though I did learn to type 70 wpm on an electric typewriter. Funny , too, because at that time (I was in 7th grade) my thoughts were, “WHY do I have to learn this, I’m not going to be a secretary” Haha,, is that mid 70’s sexist thinking or what!

    Kids: Indeed, these gadgets are here to stay. My children were raised at the advent of Nintendo and our home did not have any computers etc. Consesquently, the kids were outdoors all day. For this ,I am grateful! The way I see it, the only circumstance that would concern me as a mom of children at home today is that child who canNOT break away from the gaming remotes, the computer, IPhone, IPad – whatever. The child who visibly is overweight and lacking social skills. While not in alignment with the AMA diagnosis for addiction as a disease,, we are beginning to recognize areas of concern with gaming addictions. I find it all very interesting as it relates to socialization. My daughter gets asked to prom via text msg – I’m not ok with that. And no longer does the boy call the house phone,, or even come to the door as they’ll txt “I’m here” from the driveway. Where are the opportunities for kids to learn how to communicate, how to respect friend’s parents – you know that scary moment when the guy has to enter the home of his girlfriend to meet the dad… so so many changes. I try to keep an open mind and meet these kids where they’re at; in other words I recognize where txting my daughter gets better results than voicemail. So, I text.

    • sswl says:

      Yes, I can see that kids who are so obsessed with gaming, etc. that they eat too much and can’t talk to anyone have a problem, though whether the electronics obsession is the cause or the effect is hard to tell. What I really worry about is the distraction of it all. When I’m working on something on my laptop and that little ding-dong sound tells me an email has just come in, I have a very hard time not interrupting what I’m doing to check it. Multiply that by, say, 50 texts or more a day, which is about what one of my sons gets. Is sustained concentration something people won’t know how to do anymore? Does it matter? Just wondering and worrying and trying not to turn into a Luddite.

      • Dawn says:

        So very interesting!! And so much we don’t know as we are pioneering this era of electronics, at least in terms of how very much it infiltrates our lives.

        One feature every one of these devcices has is an “off” button. When we take the boat out for fishing we pursposefully leave the IPad, the Iphone, etc etc at home. Seems the only time anymore we are without. Though , many Sundays I notice both my husband and I have electronics on “off” or his work cell phone is in his truck. We ALL need a reprieve now an then,

  4. byebyebeer says:

    It feels inevitable, a kind of evolution, but not good for me. I’m happiest when I force myself to put the phone down. That’s very freeing.

    Beautifully written post.

    • sswl says:

      Thanks, BBB! Agree about the inevitability, unless something pretty horrendous happens to shake up electronics production, in which case maybe we’ll all be communicating by Pony Express!

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