The last 4 weeks have been extremely traumatic for me. It has culminated in an extended period of renewal, reflection and rejuvenation, where I have looked back over the last 15 years of my life and asked, “What next?”.
An interesting note on the word rejuvenation: it means to reclaim your childlike state (ok, I’m playing fast and loose with the definition).
Why now? Why 15 years?
In the Fall of 1991, I bought my first computer. Until then, I had avoided using them like the plague. I had managed to get through my undergraduate years with a pen, paper, and an electronic typewriter with rudimentary spell-checking. I felt that I had achieved something; I felt bonded to the works I created.
I was also an avid and active journal-keeper. In the months after my father died, the writing in my journal was what let me empty my naive mind, letting me vent the chaos that rushed through my head on a constant basis.
Then I went to grad school. And I realized then that I would need to step up in order to generate the massive amount of paper that is required in a graduate history program.
It turns out that I found the technology more enticing than the program. To this day, my failure to complete my Masters degree haunts me. Someday, I will return to that, and complete it. Knot the loose ends of my life together.
Ok, this really is going somewhere; thanks for hanging on this far.
After 15 years of intense immersion in technology, the Web, networking, and all that comes along with that, I have realized that something has been missing from my work, my writing, my life. I have missed the rushing sound of pen on a clean sheet of blank paper. No lines to slow you down; nothing besides the edges of the page to define what you put in the book.
Technology has lost its lustre. The rushing stream of this new laptop, that new technology, another over-inflated boom have left me feeling empty, asking “So what?”. In a hundred years, we can be so far down the path to post-humanism that computers as we know them are a vague and distant antique amusement.
Or we could be living in caves, scratching by a subsistence existence.
In either case, the only thing that will remain, that will linger, that will connect us to the past will be the written word. Not the electronic bits and bytes we are now so addicted to, but the ink on paper, graphite on wood pulp.
The smooth, quiet, seductive transition of ideas from mind to physical reality.
I have been trimming back my blog-reading. Gone are the political blogs. I fear that the gadget blogs are next.
What you have left are those people who celebrate life outside the electronic realm. Those who step back, and look back on the knowledge that preceded us. Who pick up a book that was published before they were born.
A book that left the mind of the author and flowed gracefully from the pen, to the paper, to another mind.
15 years is a long time to try and live without paper. Those 15 years have seen the niceties of a bygone age evaporate, get swallowed by an endless sea, a raging torrent of information.
The cursive hand; the thoughtful response; the flowing of ideas from person to person.
To calm the storm of my mind, I have returned to my first love: ideas of the mind, of the soul. Ideas that were worthy of the preparation of the parchment, the sharpening of the quill, the grinding of the pigment to create the ink.
We have walked away from those ideas, grasping at the brass ring in front of us, to the disdain of the treasure chest we leave behind.
To focus on the ideas, that is to live again.
To heal my mind, I must write my mind. Not type it; not IM it or e-mail it or blog it.
That familiar scratch of pen on paper. The rush that comes from committing something to paper; something that you can share with others.
Something that you can set adrift, watch as it floats, the glow from its candle on the gentle rippled flow of all the ideas that have come before.
I am setting my ideas free again.