TMI

I’ve taken myself off Facebook and twitter, not that hardly anyone would notice. Except of course, me, which was the point.

I have shut the door to the party. Once, when I was a teenager, my mother and I were driving into Hartford and we passed by the huge brick Aetna building, I said to her: “I would like to live there so that I could have a party in this part—“ I indicated the vast right-hand wing, “but my room would be here—“ I indicated the equally vast left hand-wing “so I could be alone.” Naturally, she looked at me oddly. But what I was trying to say was that I love people and I love doing things to make them happy, but I find them overwhelming.

So that’s that. Despite FB telling me that so-and-so really misses hearing from me (doubt it) I’m sticking to my decision. Fact is, I don’t miss the party. I do wonder slightly if I am like the ostrich, but then again, I do my bit in my own way, so I feel okay about that.

Interestingly, E.B. White felt the same way about the effect of television: “When I was a child,” he wrote in One Man’s Meat, his book of essays published in 1938, “people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist deep in tidings, and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.”

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Do You Know Who You Are If No One Knows Who You Are?

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I am in New Mexico right now and went hiking at Ghost Ranch yesterday. I got to talking with a lovely young woman who works and lives there and she told me how the solitude at the ranch–so longed for in her life–was almost overwhelming in the winter months. Having no distractions forces you to face yourself.  Our conversation reminded me of this earlier post I wrote and so I’m re-posting it here (with a new image–a watercolor I did en plein air at Ghost Ranch.) Hope you like it.

What is your role at this time in your life? Can you state it, in one sentence? When an editor looks at a manuscript and can’t quite make up her mind about it, she asks the author: “what is at the core of the story?” If the author doesn’t know or can’t relate it succinctly, then that is the basic problem with the story. It’s the same with our lives. If we can’t tell ourselves, in one sentence, what our role is, how do we know what our story is?

Knowing our role is the center of our actions. If we know our role, our actions naturally and easily extend outward from that knowledge. If we don’t know, our actions seem erratic and confusing, to us and to everyone else.

You find your role by self-reflection.  It’s an activity that involves no one but you. It’s just you and you—non-twittered, non-face booked, non-social media-ed.  The only way to get to know yourself is to meet yourself and you can’t do that if you are constantly reacting to someone else’s idea of who you are.

Do you exist if no one tags you? Do you count if you don’t post? Who are you, essentially? Take away all your labels: friend, parent, lover, child. Take away your media: face book, twitter, tumblr, etc. Drop all these like a cheap suit. Now stand there naked. Who are you? When you can answer that, it’s time to get dressed again.

Not knowing is scary; I’ve been there. It’s a dark place with no stable ground. But if you can do the hard work of facing yourself, answering your own questions, not letting others tell you who you are, you will find your stable ground and it will be always stable, since you have found it for yourself.

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 “When I was a child, people simply looked about them and were moderately happy. Nowadays they peer across the seven seas, bury themselves waist-deep in tidings and by and large what they see and hear makes them unutterably sad.” 

E. B. White, the essayist and author of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and other classic children’s books wrote the above in 1930. He was talking about the newly emerging technology of television. And if he thought there was too much information out there in 1930, I shudder to think what he would think of today.

Is ignorance bliss—or are we burying ourselves in tidings? We have reality TV (why?) and memoirs up the wazoo, blogging and then of course there is tweeting. Tidings everywhere. Lots of clamor and few places to reflect.

But reflection and its relationship to self-knowledge is exactly what are missing from our over-stimulated lives. I’m not sure where all this information sharing is going—whether it is good or bad—but it is.

In the old days, we set out on our hero’s journey to find our empowerment. Then, once found, we carried ourselves, in our newfound power back to our communities to share and to complete the circle. But what do we have now? Is there a Hero’s Journey? Is there a circle of power?

Or is there only a clamor of rootless voices, desperate to be heard?

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