I wrote this for an English class, probably Creative Writing. I dated it 11-25-2002. I’m editing it a bit here.
The alarm clock’s insect buzzing brings me to a world that is a long way for the dream I have just left. I have a bad feeling that this world is not a good trade for the dream either. Lying in bed for a few more seconds, I savor the fading memory of purpose and adventure in the dream. Hoping to see a cloudless sky I look up, but there are only the cracks in the ceiling weaving jagged paths predestined by sagging support beams somewhere behind the plaster. Leaving the peaceful dream world, I climb from my worm bed, forcing my feet to the plant themselves on the hard floor that feels like it is made of ice.
Grabbing a nearby pair of socks I pull them on. I stumble to the kitchen to begin making the coffee that will complete the process that my alarm started. I put the ingredients where needed and I push the on button and hear the soft sounds of of the coffee makers own awakening. Soon it hisses and beats. Accomplishing a morning ritual that has become sacred in modern times. I take a moment to contemplate starting a coffee religion, I would join it. Coffee is a connection that bridges traditional boundaries everywhere. I’ll file that one in my head under possible life goals. I walk back to the bedroom and take a last look at the bed before making it and grabbing some clothes for the day. Walking back to the kitchen I see that the coffee maker is doing its ob. I walk to the window to observe the uniquely urban sunrise reflected in a grass faced office building. Down on the sidewalk is an old man who is walking with such long strides he appears to be bouncing. He wears a black and white cap, a long sleeved bright red shirt, and pants that come down to his ankles. I can’t help but wonder if he drinks coffee with cream or black.
I am stirred from my thoughts by the coffee maker as it announces itself by gargling the last amount of water in its system. I walk in and set frothing and steaming dramatically until finally it falls into silence like a death in a movie. After I pour a cup I go the fridge to look at the to do list that has been there for too long. Looking at it my eyes fall immediately to the line that says, Find Myself. What a depressing thing to write, so I give my thumb a lick and erase it. Examining the list a second time I see the words Live everyday as if it were my last. I pause in thought and decide to go for a walk. Before I leave, I write Find Myself of the list again but the black smudge on my thumb remains, like a scar. A reminder that we can treat life mindfully or mindlessly and either way the days still go by.
Walking down the familiar street I come upon a bus bench that I have never seen before. The bench is part of a tree, and amazingly large tree that is like no tree I’ve seen before. Looking around I realize that I know where I am and this has never been here before.The bench looks inviting and I am compelled to sit down. A woman is sitting on the other end reading a book. As soon as I take the load off I am filled with peacefulness like I am weightless and without a care in the world. I feel complete and my mind wanders. As I look around me the city dissolves and becomes a forest. There are squirrels and birds scurrying about. Yet the only sound I can hear is my heartbeat and my breathing, I notice these are both slowing down. When they slow to silence, I close my eyes.
I leave my body entirely and float above it, looking at myself and the leaf covered floor of the forest beneath me. I see with great clarity a deer as if walks casually past my body stopping to sniff my black thumb. A leaf falls from a tree and floats to the ground where it shatters like glass ceasing its leaf existence to become a part of the ground decomposing before me. I look at the tree growing fascinated by its seasonal changes. I realize that life is a thing that comes and goes, always returning in new forms. No one can find the meaning of life only meaning in their lives.
At this thought my mind leaves the forest and soars into darkness where my mind is every where and nowhere. my thoughts are everything. I am ables to see the entire human condition without interruption.
My eyes open and I am back in the city looking at the strew. The woman reading is gone and I am on a regular bus bench. Standing up I turn to look and see the words This is the most comfortable thing you’ll sit on today. I turn and walk home, seeing all and feeling my mind everywhere around me. Reentering my kitchen I erase the To-Do list and write Start a Coffee Religion on it.
I try to understand the internet. Well this morning I started, but I’ve been gathering data for many years. I read some articles that I found on Twitter and Facebook, just like many of you did. However, the ones I read were not related to Justin Bieber or the Sochi Olympics*. I read about Upworthy’s new way of measuring viewer engagement on a web page. I also read an article about Upworthy’s distastefully persuasive headlines being used for good. Finally I read something about the internet making us dumber.
The article about the new metric for page views, they call it ‘Attention Minutes,’ is a clever blend of looking at mouse movement, scrolling, and some other things. When I look at pages I’m scrolling and usually dancing about with my mouse pointer trying to stay out of my reading. It sounds like it’s pretty good to me. I guess they will release it into the wild later this year for anyone to use. I didn’t know they could reach that far into my web surfing behavior; it’s a little disconcerting. I don’t like being researched like I’m a gear in a capitalistic machine. I’m being examined to find the most efficient way of getting at my wallet. I suppose advertising has always been that way but do they have to be so glaringly obvious about it?
Anyway, that led me to the second article about Upworthy’s headline silliness and selflessness. The Gates Foundation is using Upworthy’s expertise at grabbing people with headlines to promote stories increasing awareness of global suffering. I personally have disliked headlines that tease some spectacle, the look-at-this-video-because-you-won’t-believe-it trend. After reading the article, I still dislike them. In it there was a blurb from Upworthy’s CEO speaking in general about their headlines saying something like if you hate the headlines it’s you against 10 million page views so maybe you should change your thinking. I really hadn’t thought twice about Upworthy before other than how it is one of those sites that trick me into following a link with something mildly entertaining in the midst of a pile of ads. When I take a step back, I see that this is reality: they are engaging millions of people. Is it unethical? Are they tricking millions of people? People want what they want and do what they do. As kids we grab things without thinking because we want to play with them. Is our clicking an extension of that grabby curiosity, like rats pushing a button for food? My Facebook posse certainly seems to do some odd shares and likes. I don’t think there is a conscious thought between recognition and click oftentimes. As I write this I realize I’m extrapolating far too much from too little. It’s worth a thought though.
Oddly enough I stumbled over a related article on Facebook. (And then I went back to Facebook to look for it again and spent 10 minutes not looking for it.) It posits that the internet may be making us dumber. It uses a study that asked people some questions alone and in a group. The study showed that in the group, when one person had a right answer and the others had it wrong the others would see their error and change their answer. When asked two more questions, however, the group members would not analyze it more critically in light of their previous wrong answer. They made the same mistakes again and relied on the more knowledgeable members. It was supposed to show that in a social group people fall back on someone else who knows the answer instead of thinking for themselves. The problem is if your friends jump off a bridge will you too?
Seriously, I often click before I think. Is this Night of the Living Dead’s lost moral come true? A herd of zombies that live only to consume, clicking this and that in the pursuit of pleasure/brains. If one wants to be cynical about it, that conclusion could be drawn. Someone could also look at the seemingly infinite reasons people do anything and say that’s quite a leap. I prefer to wait and see if more research gets done on the subject and the huge number of variables can be controlled. It’s fascinating and it is the future. I’m going to go ahead and keep trying to understand internet.
*I did look at the snark tweets coming from Sochi.
Down on Christopher Street,
Near the Stone Wall Inn,
A woman will wash your hands,
and try to sell you Dead Sea Salt.
I’ve been relatively busy for the last few weeks. I have been working full time and it is not easy to blog at work. I read a book called First Time Crew about sailing basics. It is an older book but entertaining to read and really informative. There is even some humor. Now I am reading a story of a couple who sailed to Europe from the United States and are currently cruising the canals of France to the Mediterranean, I had no idea that was possible and now I have no idea how I can live without doing it next someday. I also spend a lot of time looking at sailboats for sale. I have read in several places that catamarans are the most stable boats to cruise in. I am pining for one now, for Jill’s sake and mine too. Tonight I’m planning to look for that extra $200,000 in the couch cushions. Catamarans are expensive! Most of the used ones on the market (online, in my limited searches) aren’t older than 20 years and they’re all over 100K. There are a very few 30 – 40 year old cats that are marginally livable, but even those are 50K or so and need a lot of work. If that was the end of the story I could probably live with it; but there are dozens of affordable mono-hulls out there tempting my spontaneity. That is to say, the sticker price seems affordable until the probable repairs are calculated and the cost doubles. The next thing to do is try a little sailing while we are in Florida in March. Jill (and I) will either be miserable on a rocking and rolling mono-hull or not and we can consider one seriously. It is really exciting to be planning such an adventure, only everything seems to only crawl along, such is life.
I pretty much think about sailing full time now. But I should let you know that Jill just finished taking an ESL volunteer tutoring class. She may be able to volunteer and tutor some ESL learners and gather some extremely valuable experience. If we go and do that somewhere next year maybe we can save some boat money. I was working and couldn’t attend the class with her, so I will get in a class when I have more time since the MN Literacy Council seems to offer training sessions often.
I also submitted a travel article to a travel writing contest put on by the We Said Go Travel website. It’s exciting because I’ve never done something like that before. Onward and upward and plasma tomorrow.