Tuesday, January 17, 2012

iPhones, iPads, Tablets, Kindles, Nooks, etc.

A couple nights ago, my husband, David, and I went to the local McMenamins (http://www.mcmenamins.com/events/search/Movie?location_id=81) here in Bend to watch a movie at their charming theater and, while we waited in line to buy our tickets, I counted as far up the line as I could see that every man, woman, and child had some kind of electronic device out and was using it; some had iPhones and texted or made calls while waiting, some had Tablets and played games, some held Kindles or Nooks and read books, but everyone had something in the way of an electronic device in their hands. Except David and me, that is.

Why was this interesting? Well, maybe because I'm 56 years old and, though I'm up on utilizing the internet and various forms of telecommunications devices (as tools, mostly), it struck me that the times have most definitely changed; our culture has crossed over to what I, in my youth, fancied to be "futuristic."

When I was a young adult, if you were standing in a line somewhere, you might very well strike up a conversation with the folks near you. You would engage. And, if not with strangers, with the people you were waiting in line with.

I am in no way a luddite. I love technology. Technology that serves us, that is. But while we were waiting in line there at the movie theater, I realized that people weren't talking to one another. The kids were occupying themselves with devices that cost a minimum $100 and some had Tablets or Kindles that were probably closer to $200+. The family of five (mom, dad, three kids) each had a device in there hands and each was busy focusing on their individual device. The kids were pretty much quiet and occupied. Okay. That's good, I guess. The parents talked or texted with their iPhones but didn't talk much to each other. Hmmm...I see that I am making a judgement here but this struck me as sad.

David and I decided to cut way down on commercial TV shortly after our son was born. By the time he was in the seventh grade, we decided to unplug from TV altogether. It was just too damn disruptive to the peace of our family. We switched over to "pull technology" - watching shows/movies that we chose and without commercials (the most offensive aspect of commercial TV, from our perspective). And we talk. We talk to one another. We also listen to music. And then, sometimes, we'll talk about the music. Because we are really listening to it, not just having background noise. We ask each other's opinions on music, what we're reading at the time, or just what is on our minds. We share our thoughts and feelings with one another. David and I also have (and have always had) a very open exchange of ideas with our son (people frequently comment that our relationship with our son is quite close and unique in this regard) and we have never once regretted our decision to unplug from the push of commercial TV so that we can, instead, engage more with one another. In fact, when we visit family or friends who have their TVs blaring while we're in their homes, we all feel relieved to come back to our quiet home. The natural peace of it.

We spend a lot of time on our computers, yes. Admittedly. We use them for almost every type of communication; we pull information, read the news (we also decided some years ago to stop wasting paper subscribing to paper news), share information, and use the applications available to us for handling work projects and doing some fun things, too. But, all in all, we spend more time engaging with one another in a way that we see most people don't.

So, the gist of this rant is that I still say telecommunications is excellent to have at our disposal; cell phones are great - they've improved availability for communicating, not hindered it. Computers are superb; they allow us to accomplish tasks in minutes that took hours (or weren't even possible) before. I love that we now have Kindle and Nook and other eReaders. A book is a book, whether paper or electronic. But I do believe that we need to exercise some discipline when it comes to using these and other devices. Utilizing a tool is one thing, getting addicted to gadgets is another. It's too easy to get sucked into the abyss of mindless wasted time in front of some device offering "entertainment" that's empty of value and full of ulterior motive - lessening our direct engagement with one another so that we wind up feeling more empty in the long run and, therefore, more easily manipulated into trying to buy our sense of happiness, belonging, and place in the world. Being mindless is excellent for gadget sales.

I think life is about engaging. Engaging with our natural environment. Engaging with other people. Engaging with ourselves. Who are we? What are we? What are we doing with our lives? As long as telecomm technologies serve us for who and what we truly are - living, breathing human beings - they are a plus. As soon as we let them dominate our sense of who we are, and let them determine how we are with one another, we've become enslaved to yet another form of serfdom. But it's a considerably expensive one.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Reflection and thanks for 2011

I've been reflecting on 2011 and thinking about all the changes I've been through during that year. Wow! There have been a lot! I moved from Nevada (having lived in the Carson City area for just shy of 10 years) to Bend, Oregon. Beautiful Bend! The trees here have healing power. Yes, that's my earth-muffin feeling. The trees have fragrances that are like aromatherapy. The air here mends the mind and heart. I'm so thankful that we made the impetuous move here.

I published two novels in 2011: THE DREAM STAR, science-fiction, and ENCHANTMENTS, a fantasy verse-novel based on Arthurian myth. I've let go of many attachments and opened my mind and heart to the unknown on so many levels. I've grown even closer to my husband of 24 years and our 23-year-old son. I'm thankful for all of it.

I recently read again my interview published in the September issue of Wildflower Magazine (http://issuu.com/wildflowermag/docs/september2011?mode=window&backgroundColor=%23222222) talking about THE DREAM STAR and ENCHANTMENTS, how I came to write both stories, what inspired them, etc., and it brought back all the challenges and joys surrounding writing both books. It takes so much love, commitment, patience, and trust to write a novel. Will they find their audience? Only time will tell...

Though the experience of self-publication brought to light certain shattering realities about who I believed my friends and supporters to be, I'm thankful for it all. I found support from lots of folks that surprised me. And there were "friends" who I had thought for sure would be supportive of my publications who never gave me even a small kind word. It helped me detach from old ties in a way that I needed to. And to appreciate the people who did support me, even though it didn't "get them anything."

I've had breakthroughs with my poetry writing - having to trust in my own sense of what works and what doesn't in a poem (after having moved away from my longtime poetry critique group in Nevada, Ash Canyon Poets - a wonderful group, btw!) and no longer having that kind of feedback before submitting poems to literary journals and poetry magazines. But I got poems published, anyway.

I feel that, altogether, 2011 was a phenomenal year. Very painful, sometimes. Very freeing and mind-expanding, too. I'm looking forward to 2012. I have a feeling life will present many more changes. It's pretty cool living in the unknown.