Friday, March 5, 2010

backpack, flashlight, bag of carmel corn, bicycle, and the radio.

I heard grandpa on my transistor radio,
Though he turned in his bones twenty years ago,
And he said, "Kid, theres something that I'd like to show you,
Get your things, its time for us to go"
So I grabbed my backpack, my flashlight, and a bag of caramel corn,
I got my bicycle, and the radio, and I headed on the road, I said
"I'm ready for what I'm about to see, Yup"

I headed north 'til rain had turned to snow
Through rusty towns and dusty gravel roads
And I said, "Grandpa, where is this thing you wanted to show me?"
He said, "Kid, you got a long way to go"
So I went through canyons, caves and catacombs, I sailed on bicycle boats
I slept in chapels and brothels, I met the nicest folks
I said, "I'm ready for what I'm about to see, Yup"

I heard grandpa on my transistor radio
He said, "Kid, its time for me to go,
And I know that there was something that I wanted to show you,
But its time for you to find it on your own."
Let me tell you about rage when a signal died that day,
Theres nothing out there and I don't care if they take my life away
"I'm not ready and I don't want to see, Nope"

Its been years since I heard my transistor radio
Yet I keep going to where it seems I'm meant to go
And I finally realized what he wanted to show me
Where I've been, where I am, is the show
Where I've been, where I am, is the show
Where I've been, where I am, is the show

a while ago a good friend at the dinner table asked me question. “if you could only own five things, what would they be and how would you live?” after a short thought I told her that i would only need three things - pocket knife, bicycle, guitar, and i would spend my days riding up and down some tropical coast. the question spurred a pleasant conversation, and limiting yourself to only five things proved difficult. through each friend's distinct responses we entertained ourselves until our hunger was replaced with warmth and fellowship, but we soon went home and the idea of only owning five things remained theoretical.

a week or so later i found myself with another friend, again at the dining room table, chatting about how difficult it is to focus in our studies. as we talked i wondered if there was something wrong with my brain and if professional or chemical help should be sought out. however, in comparing myself to other students our age i didn't feel much different. adhd, depression, bpd are all becoming more prevalent in our generation, and medications like adderall only treat symptoms and do not eliminate the disease. it's as if we think that giving blood thinners to a 400 pound man with chest pains cures him when really he needs diet and exercise. my friend and i theorized that our mental plagues were the result of similar overconsumption - not of food, but of media. our minds become obese with the infinite courses presented to us through advanced technology and cunning marketing. like how our bodies develop disorders through the excess consumption of poor food choices, it seems our minds slow and malfunction when we consume large amounts of media devoid of nutrients and fail to burn it off through effective intellectual exertion. it might be said our culture, myself included, is fighting mental obesity just as much as physical.

after my friend left and i was nearing sleep, i realized that nothing would change about the way my mind works unless i adjusted my habits. i thought about how i could leave my cell phone, laptop, and ipod at home when i went to campus to study. i thought about selling them all and replacing them with some kind of pay-as-you-go phone to use in emergencies only. would it be possible to live only owning five things? or why not follow thoreau and move to walden pond? i knew something had to be done, but to what extreme i wasn't sure.

later that week an opportunity presented itself. my nephew would be getting baptized in chicago, and my parents agreed to fly me out for the weekend to be with the family. it would only be there for a few days (last thursday through sunday) but i would be able to get out of dodge and breathe some fresh midwest air. when it came time to pack i realized that i would want to bring as few things as possible to avoid checking luggage and to get through airport security as quickly as possible. for the sake of utility but even more in an attempt to find a remedy for my poor brain i decided that, apart from my clothing, i would only bring five things with me:

book (don quixote)

these are the things i could have brought, but didn't:
cell phone with internet

through writing i would pay close attention to my mood to see if i was happier, more focused and more relaxed. i felt ready for what i was about to see.

on the day i left (the 25th) i wrote:
as i left the apartment for class this morning (i had to go straight from class to the airport so my bag was already packed) i couldn't help but feel frightened and anxious about not having $2,000 worth of electronics to back me up over the next four days. most of the anxiety was about getting to the airport via bus on time. if i missed a change how would i be able to look up the next bus without my phone? heaven forbid i should look it up on one of the ubiquitous posted schedules or even worse - ask someone. i kicked the slush on the sidewalk in frustration over my fear. how cold something i own have so much power over me? i realized i was not scared about missing my flight, but i was scared like a stressed smoker without a cigarette. i wanted a puff, but my smokes were at home.

on the 27th of february i wrote:
i'm more here than ever before. here is warm, full of family, boisterous, loud and lovely. all my cell phone and computer do is transport me to there - a place of guile and where true intentions are hidden. if my laptop where here i would not want to touch it for fear that it would pop like a balloon and startle me from the most beautiful of dreams. the convenience of texting no longer appeals now that i know the colors that can be painted by a voice. i wouldn't want to put in my headphones for fear of shutting out the bright, primary hues of nieces and nephews at creative play, or the bold shadows and highlights of the adults discussing family plans. i wouldn't dare to connect myself to there via some form of radio waves that respects no flesh and passes through it the same as wood or stone. here love and concern is sent and received like welcome guests to and from a warm home. to eat and to converse are the only two things meant to be done at the same time.

when i came home i picked up my school work and immediately fell off of the wagon. in a panic to get assignments done and prepare for exams the way i felt in chicago was nearly swallowed up by a torrent of headaches that i can only attribute to staring at my laptop all day. now that the dust has settled i can clearly see a contrast in the way i felt in chicago and the way i feel hooked to my computer. right now i feel overstimulated, frazzled, unfocussed, anxious. even typing this sentence wears me out. i'm torn between here and there, i have too many options of clothes to wear, websites to read, movies to see, and music to hear. if i choose wrong i might miss something. it seems the signal has died.. there's nothing out there and i don't care...

all i want to do is go back and completely unplug, but unfortunately it seems impossible. to accomplish anything today you have to go through a digital intermediate. i know that i have to, but i'm not exactly sure how to best implement what i learned about simplicity. i guess i'll keep going to where it seems i'm meant to go. hopefully someday i'll realize what he wanted to show me.

"where i've been, where i am, is the show"

1 comment:

  1. The first few days I got back from my mission I hated texting and facebook and online chatting and part of me still does but in other ways I have come to embrace it again with a different perspective. I hated it because it felt like such a cheap imitation for real interaction and you miss things like voice inflection, body language, etc. It's like the "Lite" version of communicating, it comes with functionality but all the good features are taken out. After two years of full featured communication with others, Facebook chats and 160 character text messages with ambiguous emotional interpretations just wasn't the same.