Saturday, March 21, 2009

Disconnecting From the Universal Umbilical Cord

With so many things in life, focus waxes and wanes.

And it seems that we've got ever increasing means to fill up even the tiniest slice of our time thanks to all of those innumerable, ever-populating technological gadgets. Between the Blackberry, the cell phone, the computer, Facebook, Twitter, the Blogosphere, YouTube, Hulu, the missed episode of Gray's Anatomy on ABC.Com it's a wonder we can focus at all.

Where does real life get sandwiched in?

And where does it leave reading?

I've thought a lot this past week about books. I love them. Talking about books and their power to enlighten and empower and engage and entertain is the one subject that lights up my entire soul.

Yet after another 14 hour day of reading screen after screen of digital imagery, the stress of that jittery amalgam of information creates a desire to just close my eyes and my mind to try to find a real sense of peace.

In the six months that I've been away from Midwestern Lodestar (and most of the other book blogs) I have read - I couldn't really live without it - but I just couldn't seem to move forward with the act of engaging in one more "remote" interaction by chatting it up in the vacuum of cyberspace.

I don't think I'm alone. Why else would there be a move to have face-to-face Kidlitosphere events? We are all connected 24/7 - but remotely, abstractly, distantly.

There are many who bemoan what they see as the imminent demise of the hands-on daily newspaper. Magazines become more and more photo and sound-bite oriented every day. The digital book reading devices continue to proliferate. Movies are watched on a 3 inch I-Pod screen. Will the current generation, who have lived in this connected but disconnected world their whole lives be the ones to finally and firmly reject the traditional concept of the book? Why do bits of Fahrenheit 451 come to mind more and more often?

I used to make it a mission to see all of the nominees for Best Picture before the Oscar broadcast each year. This year, for the first time in nearly a decade, I decided to resume that quest. And I saw them - all five - in a single day, all in actual movie theaters. Sure, there were annoying talkers and sticky floors and exorbitant prices - but the visceral experience of sharing the film with other physically present human beings was a heady thing. I found myself seeing another "live" film the following weekend - just to savor the "being there" moment of it again.

I feel that same pulse in a bookstore sometimes and often in a used bookstore. It's the devotion to reading - and to books - that is the current that draws people together in these spaces. I do not feel that in many libraries anymore. Too often, they have become the technological way stations for those who do not have access to the 24/7 connectors at home -- and the vast areas once filled with books are now a sea of computers at which sit completely isolated individuals pursuing the new dream of communicating with the world without ever really connecting with anyone in it.

Reading a fabulous picture book still feeds the spirit, but not in the way that reading a fabulous picture book with a group of children does. The connection, the moment, the common experience - we are losing these moments every day and in our headlong rush to stay connected 24/7, I wonder if we will notice before it's too late?

Stepping out of the information stream is jarring. Some nights I still see the random electronic flashing of all the digital screens I've absorbed into my retinas playing against my closed eyelids.

Even so, I do step out as a gift to myself.

I give myself the gift of connection and I take that great picture book in and do an adult story time at coffee break. I give myself a gift of time away from the universal umbilical cord and spend a day at the movie theater. Or perhaps I give myself one of the most precious gifts of all - the stress free delight of unbroken focus - and do nothing at all but lose myself in a book.

And sometimes, I also choose not to dilute that experience by uploading it straight back into the collective consciousness here at Lodestar.

-- ZG


Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Ms. Yingling said...

Since I work on the computer all day, I never go near it at night. That's my time for reading books, weeding the garden, etc. I think that we all have filters of some kind to protect ourselves for being overly wired. Just have to find that balance.