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12/31/2006 Archived Entry: "Year of silence -- observations on foot -- Internet addiction"

YESTERDAY, MY 15TH DAY ON FOOT, I walked to town on a few errands. But not before spending absurd hours on the Internet. Reading news. Catching up on email. Checking blogs. Visiting TCF and witnessing an ugly situation there. Reading bad news; for some reason it was more depressing than usual that day. Much unnecessary suffering in the world. Suffering people. Suffering dogs. All suffering at the hands of governments.

By the time I left for town I was depressed and surly from the content of the Net experience. But equally I was physically stupified by the hours of hunching over the keyboard, peering into the monitor, bottling emotions and energies up in a rigid body.

It was a fine, crisp morning. Very cold and a little dangerous walking on the roads and sidewalks -- lots of ice, just beginning to melt off. I always like going to town. And it's downhill all the way.

Coming back is a different matter. Let's just say it's a good cardio workout. And like any good exercise, I'd avoid it if I could.

But that morning -- pushing afternoon, by now -- I'd just picked up a huge loaf of rosemary Italian bread, fresh out of the oven. I know it was fresh out of the oven because I had to sit and wait for it at our own little local bakery. We are so blessed to have this place. It isn't fancy. It doesn't have a huge selection. But muffins and croissants, giant pretzels and bread loaves run out the door. You get there early in the day or you get leavings.

So I'm climbing back up the hill, carrying this giant loaf of bread in an open paper sack (I'd asked for a small loaf, but happily paid for this one when they accidentally put it in my bag). The loaf was too warm to put into plastic. And the aromas of rosemary and fresh-baked bread (the best smell in all the universe) are wafting up at me.

And the sun is shining.

And the leaves, needles, and bare branches are sparkling. (So is the road, which is not so good a thing.)

And the air is comfortably refreshing.

And I hear a brook (at any other moment, a mere watery ditch) babbling enthusiastically down a wooded ravine.

And I'm headed up to the coolest little spot I've ever lived in.

Where a passel of well-loved dogs will greet me.

And here -- in this lovely place and this lovely life -- this Internet thing, useful though it may be, is sucking me into a La Brea Tarpit of bad news and bad habits. Why do I allow this, day after day? Why do I welcome the Internet each morning when it has an enervating and depressing effect on me?

Because the fault is not in our technology, it is in ourselves. No. The fault is in MYself. I can't speak for anybody else, but as I've noted before, this is the first time in my life I've been able to really relate to people who can't drink, can't smoke, or can't use recreational drugs without loss of self-control.

The Internet brings research for my stories and articles.

Then it distracts me from writing them. Distracts me from ever getting the ideas needed to write them (while at the same time it bombards me with little random ideas -- with just enough stimuli for posting sarcastic blog posts or little rants at TCF).

Is this thing turning us all into morons? Or is it only me? But increasingly, we communicate as lower primates might communicate if they could manage keyboards. And since our species acts like primates in its power relationships, we always have plenty of bad news spurring us to display our bad manners, bad spelling, bad grammar, and bad attitudes. We communicate with more people, faster than ever before. But we communicate -- and absorb -- less real content.

It's like living on a diet of Fritos, popcorn, Jolt, Bawls Guarana, and chocolate bars. Filling, yes. Healthy, no.

This is not what I meant to say. This is not where I meant to go. What others do is not for me to judge. But I have to judge myself harshly in this one thing.

2006 began as my well-blogged "Year of Silence." I was going to disconnect from telephones and the eworld and live a more centered life.

That worked brilliantly, creatively, exilaratingly, until July, when I felt I had no choice but to get a home Net connection again. From then on -- downhill. Life becomes the Internet.

Discipline yourself, you say? Discipline? Surely you jest. I am a writer and we are primates of the worst order -- monkey-brains, grasping for any bright bauble, doing anything that can be construed as play, rather than work. Unable to sit still for more than 15 minutes at a time -- unless we manage to connect with our absolute concentration. And who can concentrate when ... the glittering cafes of the Internet beckon? The absinthe of The Agitator. The opium of Rational Review News. The pure black heroin of The Claire Files Forums.

Never mind, never mind, that they will be your downfall ...

Geez, this is turning into a ridiculously dramatic rant. But the main point is that, I am not giving up on my quest for silence. I deferred it unintentionally. And have had fruitless struggle in the latter half of this year getting back on my right path. But in the new year, I will find a way to return to the silence and deepen it. I'm not sure how yet.

It means removing myself from a lot of personal communication, even though I can still continue to have a blog-ated cyber-voice. And how do I do that when the dens of sin in Internet Town are at my very fingertips, always open?

Funny to have such an uncharacteristic attraction to something so distracting. But there it is. I will, however, break that attraction, one way or another. Will keep you posted. You won't see a drastic difference. But it will be a difference, similar to what you saw earlier this year.

The unfortunate thing is that to achieve needed peace, I must break, and in some cases, re-break most personal communications. That is what's hardest. And that's what's most addictive about the Net. Gotta share all that bad-scary news with somebody. Gotta respond when people reach out. Gotta bless those who bless my life so greatly (and so many have this year; so many do). And gawd, what a great, classic work avoider the Internet is. Better than that classic American drug, the TV set.

But oh, what a hangover this particular drug can leave ya with.

Posted by Claire @ 09:15 AM CST

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