Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

writer poet About Me Links Contact

Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

The time of our lives

Monday, March 1, 2010

I have the honor of being a guest blogger on the blog of Melusine, an online journal of literature and art. (I am also delighted to have a poem in the current issue.) The blog post is about boredom, something I always dismissed, but am now taking a new look at.

A few years ago someone said that time plays a major role in my poetry. If that’s the case, I’m not surprised. It is a major theme in my life--my use of time, our allotted time, the accumulation of time. What I was thinking about when I wrote the piece on boredom was how we have so many tiny and often inconsequential demands on our time that we don’t even have enough time to get bored, and I think that’s a loss.

I used to have no tolerance for boredom. “Only boring people are bored,” was my watchword. But I’ve begun to think that what used to be boredom may now be more aptly called “unstructured time.” Every minute of our lives seems to have its demands, its--as Keats said in a way-pre-Google age--"irritable reaching after fact." Few of those demands are important and most of them are set up by us.

I thought about this--and wrote about it--recently when I found myself tempted by a shiny new smartphone. I have to confess that I have still not entirely closed the door on that, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to make my decision in a way that still keeps me in charge of my time.

So here’s my new thinking on boredom. If we fill up every available minute, maybe we’ll never experience boredom. But maybe, too, we’ll never have the available time to think the thoughts that would be most creative or would make us most aware or would in some way add to the pleasure and significance of our lives. Maybe the free time, the unconnected time, to be a little bored would be the best gift we could give ourselves.

Here’s a challenge I'm setting for myself and offering to you, too: unplug a little. Not completely, just a little. See what comes into your mind. Maybe think of it as the new and improved boredom.

Labels: , , ,

Post a Comment

Only connect--but how much?

Sunday, January 31, 2010

It started innocently enough. I was in the Verizon store on a quick errand, and, just for fun, I asked if I was at that two-year mark when I should look at a new cell phone. Sure enough, the saleschild looked up from his screen and said, “Oh, yeah.” So I wandered, flirting with the chained-down models, and found myself seduced by a cute little almost iPhone-like Palm.

I played with the stuff on the screen and visualized myself with 24/7 e-mail access. I pictured myself looking as if I belonged in this decade with a colorful phone and a cute little charging stand. And apps. Apps? Apps!

“Would you use it mostly for texting and e-mail or would you want to have a lot of games?” the salesboy asked.

“I’d be using it mostly as a phone.” My answer was disappointing to us both.

“Oh.” But he tried to regroup, showed me lots of cool features. I could picture myself using one or two of them. I left intending to think about it, ask around, learn more.

But when the Verizon spell wore off, I was left with the suspicion that maybe I didn’t want to be followed day and night by all my e-mail. The spam? Those nice chatty ones from friends that serve as mini-visits--I wouldn’t want those to demand my attention just when I’m out doing something else.

One of my favorite things about e-mail is its ability to wait for you. It’s not a ringing phone; you get it when you want it, when you have time to read it. I appreciate that as a sender, knowing that I’m not interrupting someone, and as a receiver, having that control over my time.

Time. That’s the thing. The one definite, finite commodity of our lives. The one thing that’s ours to use, to waste, to make of whatever we choose. Do I really want to add a new level of outside demands on it?

It’s especially too easy for writers to spend their days avoiding the time they have. “Now I’ll sit down to write...but first I’d like a cup of tea...and maybe I’ll do the Times crossword puzzle/ read one more chapter/ throw in a load of laundry...” And that’s even before checking the blogroll (which, unlike the morning newspaper, has no end) or having the stray thought that demands satisfaction from Google. Then maybe just a quick peek at the e-mail--oh, the pooch pottie and I could change my life today with a degree in medical records...And all that is without the phone ringing.

In this morning’s New York Times Sunday Styles section, there’s an article about people bucking the trend toward more apps on their phones. One woman is quoted as saying, “There’s this sense that I’m missing out on something I didn’t even know I needed.” Exactly. Just because they’ve built it, do we have to come?

I’m not sure what my decision will be, but right now I’m leaning away from the adorable little Palm and toward just a basic old phone. I know I’ll have regrets about all that missed coolness and cuteness. (If only there was a phone that looked cute and cool.) But how much of my life do I want to make available to outside demands? It’s my time. I think maybe I want to decide how to use it.

Labels: , , ,

Post a Comment