Disconnecting Through Connection

Reposted from my ravenambitionWordpress site

In reading Jim Sterba’s ‘Frankie’s Place’, Jim refers to reading material that one brings into the bathroom to read as “toi lit.” People still do that, right? This term amuses me. I’ve always been a voracious reader; that hasn’t changed. But I used to enjoy reading ‘the newspaper.’ That was my alone time pleasure. The ‘local’ paperboy is just not a thing anymore. And besides, I can GO ONLINE.

I had a paperboy when I lived across town; a very dependable, polite and cheerful young man with Downs Syndrome. I also had a Siamese cat named Sam. She liked vocalizing and had a whole array of sounds for everything she did.

One guttural yowl: This was used when she was walking through the house with a sock in her mouth. It was her “sock stealing meowl.”

She had a “coin stealing chirp” too. She’d see a penny; dime, quarter or nickel on the counter or bedside stand and next thing you know… she was stalking through the house with a coin delicately held between her teeth and doing that chirpy coin stealing sound… She liked to place her treasure on the shiny hardwood living room floor and swat the coins around. Then she’d pick one up and walk around some more with it between her teeth; balanced just so.

If the paperboy showed up and I was short a few coins to pay him, I’d lift a throw rug or two and there I would find the exact amount I needed to pay him. Voila!

I don’t bother with a newspaper anymore. Because I’m so CONNECTED.

Local paperboys have gone by the wayside; replaced by early risers in family sedans who throw papers onto porches as a second means of income… It’s depersonalized now. The paper itself is less and less about local news- and it’s WAY more expensive to get a paper these days. I don’t even remember when I last saw a newspaper machine; there used to be one in walking distance. They’ve gone the way of phone booths.

“Breaking” news now pops up on my Smart Phone in alerts. If someone mentions, “Did you hear about the ___?” this is not my reply: “Really? I’ll have to get a newspaper.” Because I can ‘look it up’ immediately.

It’s all about connectivity.

In 6th grade my class was told to draw what we imagined “the year 2000” would be like. I imagined phones I’d seen in The Jetson’s cartoons, where people could be so CONNECTED, that they’d SEE who they’re talking to!

Of course I never really thought that would happen. That’s why video calls amaze me: I don’t have to tell you it only costs the price of a monthly wi-fi connection to make a call overseas or even to Skype, Google Hangout, or FaceTime someone. Used to be, a call abroad could really set back your phone bill. Same with pictures. We paid for the pictures we took, whether or not they came out well.

Phones have a built in calculator, weather forecast, calendar, note writing section (eliminating the need to carry pen and paper around or handheld shopping lists), games, apps for EVERYTHING you can imagine, and oh yeah- they make actual phone calls… But people seldom do that, right? They text now.

These highly connected “smart” phones ensure there’s always a camera on hand. My agent’s assistant William once asked me for a picture for my UTBM book. After sending several to him which he quickly deemed unusable, he finally said, “Just take a picture with your cell phone. A lot of them take better pictures than cameras these days.” I did and that’s the photo he ended up using.

I see internet connections as modern miracles really. A child’s friend moves away and yet they never cut ties the way my generation did when someone moved. They are still connected.

Imagine invisible energy, thinner than spider’s silk, connecting everyone. It’s almost psychic; the way the complex circuitry of our brains are plugged in to the complex circuitry of the world and its ‘net’ and tuned out to what’s right in front of our noses. We achieve a change, and another unexpected result comes about.

It’s too easy, being so connected, to disconnect. So many people have narcissism and this connectedness plays right into it. A lot of people hide behind their screens and use this to be hateful.

I read this true story (in Sterba’s book) about former President Nixon’s red setter dog who used to chew up the rug in the Oval Office. Nixon used to toss dog biscuits at the dog to give him to chew on instead. This diverted him for a little while but the dog would go right on chewing the rug, and of course Nixon would throw more biscuits at him.

Finally, after observing this over and over, Henry Kissinger remarked, “Mr. President, you’re teaching the dog to chew the rug.”

It’s like that with “progress.” With change. We think we are getting one result when in fact, when viewed from another perspective, the situation can be seen in an entirely different way. It’s worth stating again: With connection, comes disconnection too.

When I was younger and lived with my parents across from a cow pasture, there was a barbed wire fence to keep the cows in their place. Within walking distance from our grey house was a factory called “ManBarrier” and it is just as it sounds: they manufactured fences just like this to be used at prisons.

I would ride my bike around the neighborhood and think, ‘I know those are sharp as razors.’ I wonder if at times little birds land on the ManBarrier wires and cut up their little feet. Always I was worried about things I couldn’t control. The way one invention has a trickle down effect and can enhance but also spoil other things.

One thing truly sets in motion other things. There is a ‘discovery tool’ called Occam’s Razor, which I’m sure you know is not an irrefutable scientific thing. It’s a way to develop theories which states that there are often an incomprehensive amount of complex alternatives to a problem or situation and sometimes the preferable theories are the simplest.

I often see people interviewed on their hundredth birthdays, and a question usually asked is, “What changes have you seen in the world in your century?” The answers are fascinating.

I’m a little over halfway to that milestone and already IPhones are the new

toi lit.

My mother, she never had an IPhone. I wonder at what she’d have thought of them? When my mother’s health was failing (2005-2007), she became forgetful.

She and my father had a vegetable garden and would often give me bags of food. One time I called her up and asked, “What is the yellow thing in the bag? The curly yellow vegetable?”

“That’s a squash. They’re delicious,” she’d replied.

I boiled it, buttered it, salt and peppered it, put a forkful in my mouth, and jumped up out of the chair fast, spitting and sputtering that mouthful all over the table; the chair I was sitting in nearly tipped over. Turns out she’d unknowingly given me a decorative gourd to eat. TIP: don’t eat them. The bitter taste stays with you. A long long time.

I was connected to my mother, still am connected to her spirit, but at her end of days there was a sad disconnect.

It’s like this with change. I abhor it. I crave it, too.

In retrospect, the eating of that gourd (actually I never got it past the tastebuds and did not swallow it) is a metaphor; a bitter pill if you will, a flashing “Dangerous Curves Ahead” warning that my mother was failing. I just didn’t know it at the time, or wasn’t at a place where I could accept it, that this change in her was a sign that she would not be with us long.

I’ve deliberately become a person who always looks for the meaning in things. Truthfully, I buy gourds and display them every year and yet I was blind to the obvious: this is an inedible decorative gourd. I should’ve known that sometimes the simpler hypothesis is the right one. But I was blind to it. If my mother said so, then it is true. But people change, they are not infallible.

I’ve been thinking about change a lot because I’m working some writing with very delicate, sensitive issues and reminding myself to explore all perspectives as I write.

Remember to be present in all you do. Be wary and respectful. What

can I do

hands-on to effect change?

Because sometimes the more connected you are, the more disconnected it actually feels.

That’s all for now folks.