Posted in Musings and Reflections

A Hidden Life – Why I’m Leaving Facebook

Recently I had the privilege of attending a pre-showing of the movie “A Hidden Life.” To say that I was profoundly affected would be an understatement. I sense that there will be other changes occurring in my life as I continue to reflect on the quiet faith and conviction of an Austrian farmer, yet there is one that I feel I must make in the new year.

That change is to leave Facebook, at least the public, manually posting part. (My PeaceGrooves and Lyndaker Inlay pages will update automatically when I post to my blogs for now I think, but I will not be maintaining them or overally obsessing about visits, comments, etc).

I have appreciated connecting and re-connecting with many folks I have known over the years. I have been encouraged by comments and likes for various posts or endeavors I have shared.

Yet I have also been frustrated by the tendency for folks to engage in online discussions that are really not very productive or to present opinions that they otherwise would not dare to do so face to face. In other words, there seems to be a greater appreciation of the relationship, lack of ego as it were, when one does not have the distance the internet provides. There is also an illusion of it being a safe place to share anything when the reality is, it is anything but.

There is a moment near the end of the first Highlander movie when the main character states that with his new powers, if he is quiet, he can hear the thoughts of everyone in the world. As much as I would love to, I can’t, nor can I keep up with the lives of my friends on Facebook. I’m not the Highlander. Nor am I God. I cannot nor should I strive to be omnipresent. And it can be overwhelming at times looking into the rather strange window that persons choose to present on FB. As much as I feel I have something to share too, there is quite a cacophony out there, with a plethora of voices competing to be heard, and so, as difficult as it may be, I am going to remove one voice, my own, from the noise.

I began by limiting the notifications I received, even at the cost of missing birthdays. Still I found myself succumbing to the temptation to visit FB. I continue to be in the process of limiting all of my notifications, because I am realizing that my everyday life is constantly being interrupted and my ability to remain attentive is subverted by the distractions. I have yet to find a notification, however important, that fits the definition of “the one necessary thing.” I must ask myself if I am growing more receptive to the still small voice that calls me from my cave (internet cafe?) or less so as a result.

The older I get, the more I realize that I am on borrowed time, and there is no substitute for real rather than virtual interactions with people. If I am honest with myself I have fallen into the illusion of connection that FB presents. I must also confess that I have sought out validation based on responses or lack thereof to my posts. And I must ask myself if my online presence is truly Christlike or is it quite frankly about feeding my ego?

I must admit that I spend way too much time online. Am I happier as a result? I don’t think so. I also wonder if some of my discontentment is fostered by my scrolling through FB posts. I did see a survey awhile back that stated that folks who left FB were less informed, but happier. Am I the only one obsessed with information, suffering within the paradox of sensory overload yet never getting enough? And do I really want to keep giving away pieces of myself and my loved ones to the internet giants?

Part of this is about taking my life back. Like Pavlov’s dog, I have been well trained. And similarily, no matter how much I salivate, the bell, however loud, is no substitute for real food.

I’m not withdrawing from the world. Rather I hope to be more fully engaged in the world….the real one. I seek less face-time or Face-book, and more face to face. I invite anyone to visit or give me a call. My line and door will always be open.

Or feel free to comment here or zip me an email. I do intend to continue to explore contemplative writing as long as it does not feed the ego and remains prayer, which requires much practice. To that end, I have found blogging quite helpful. Again I welcome your responses and reflections here now and for future posts.

I hope to do more longer length writing. Perhaps on paper like I used to and not so much on the screen. I’ll keep working with my hands. I’ll still have an online presence I think but I want to be fully open to the possibility that perhaps I should have none.

Other changes are in the wind I think as I continue to reflect on what it means to live A (more) Hidden Life.

Posted in Art and Photography

The Way of the Leaf Part 40 (Photos)




Posted in Longreads and Essays

Technology and the Writer: The Case for Simplicity

I am a hunt and peck typist. I dropped out of high school typing class because I was getting Ds on my time writings. In college, after paying someone to type my first couple of papers, with the realization that there are no scholarships that cover such an expense, I decided that no matter how long it took me, I would type my own papers. Sometimes it took me a long time, but that was one lawn less I had to mow to pay the tuition.

I am not too bad especially with all of the corrective measures built into word processing software in use today. I will never win any typing contests but I get the job done. Though every once in a while I will hit a wall in my writing and wonder if perhaps there might be an easier way. So I turn to the latest software to bail me out.

I have lots of writings printed from an old Mac which were never transferred digitally. I only have the hard copies. Imagine my excitement when I discovered software that lets me scan these documents into the computer and “presto change-o” they would magically be turned in editable text documents.

There is this one piece in particular I was excited about after I recently discovered it in an old manila folder. I scanned it in. Hit the process button. Then I went through and helped the software make the corrections. Then I transferred it into Word and it looked like a monkey was messing with my keyboard. I looked at the clock and I realized I wasted two hours! Even at my slow pace I could have typed the thing into the computer – which is what I am going to have to do now anyway!

Dictation software is another time wasting temptation. I have tried Dragon Naturally Speaking off and on several times over the years, hoping against hope that the newest version will understand me better. Being a Southern-born writer I am privy to the oral tradition – much of my writing reflects the cadence of the spoken voice. I used to fill up cassette tape after cassette tape with musings and such. So recently I figured I would try it again. I spent lots of time “training” the software and creating a profile. I’ll admit I didn’t go through all of the trainings but after about five without much noticeable improvement, I started wondering if I was wasting my time.  I tried to transcribe a document and by the time I went back and corrected all of the mistakes I might as well have typed it by hand.

So I have come to the conclusion that the best way to write is quite simply – to write. There is really no easy way. It is just a matter of carving out the time and slogging through.  The computer and word processing have been a godsend for folks like me, a noticeable improvement over the typewriter (you should see the amount of liquid paper I used on early manuscripts). Blogs and such have provided me with a forum for my ideas. However, it is tempting to see the latest technological innovation as the answer to finishing that novel when it is really another in a long line of writer’s blocks. It can quickly become another excuse NOT to write.

There is something to say for the members of The Lead Pencil Club. Their Manifesto, published in the LA Times in 1994, is both a caution and catalyst for those of us caught in the technological maelstrom. I am not quite ready to go completely back to the pencil, but I do miss it and every time I am faced with the blue screen of death I wonder what pixel prison I have locked myself in to. With that in mind, I offer the original Manifesto by Bill Henderson below:

The god of our godless age is speed. Driven by our obsession to compete, we have embraced this electronic god with a frenzy.

Soon, blessed with Fax, Voice and E-mail, computer hookups and TVs with hundreds of channels, we won’t have to leave our lonely rooms–not to write a check, work, visit, shop, exercise, or make love (virtual reality will serve).

We won’t write letters to friends because we won’t have friends–just electronic anachronisms. Next century, nobody will know the meaning of “love,” though “self-love” may survive.

We will have raced at incredible speeds on the information superhighway to reach our final destination–Nothing.

Our Director Emeritus, Henry David Thoreau, said it first in 1844: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas, but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

Like Henry David Thoreau, our club is cranky. We honor provocation. We want to start an argument in the broad flapping American ear.

With Founding Director Doris Grumbach, we like to imagine that computers had “contracted a fatal illness for which there was no cure.”

Vice President Al Gore predicts that his Information Superhighway will bring people closer together, but the Club asks: Now that voice mail answers our telephone calls, are we more in touch or are we drifting further apart? Our pledges: We will avoid fax and hang up on Voice Mail. We will receive no E-Mail and send none. If our computers develop a virus, we will seek no cure. Our communications will be face to face. If direct human contact is not possible, we will write letters in our own handwriting because that handwriting is a mark of our personality.

What’s your hurry, Al Gore? Speed Kills. Where’s the Fire? Haste Makes Waste. Back To Basics. Not So Fast!

As Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify.”