“When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Original Movie Sou...
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Original Movie Soundtrack) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Remember “Turn on, tune in, drop out”? Timothy Leary may have been talking about LSD, but part of his message is still relevant, perhaps even moreso today. We spend so much time turning on our devices that many of us have no idea as to how to go about dropping out. This conundrum is something I’ve been mulling over more and more, and in that vein, I thought I’d share part of an article from December 2011. It’s relevance is perhaps more pressing today than when it was penned.

Excerpt from “The Joy of Quiet” by Pico Iyer (NYTimes.com)

Has it really come to this?

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

Internet rescue camps in South Korea and China try to save kids addicted to the screen.

Writer friends of mine pay good money to get the Freedom software that enables them to disable (for up to eight hours) the very Internet connections that seemed so emancipating not long ago. Even Intel (of all companies) experimented in 2007 with conferring four uninterrupted hours of quiet time every Tuesday morning on 300 engineers and managers. (The average office worker today, researchers have found, enjoys no more than three minutes at a time at his or her desk without interruption.) During this period the workers were not allowed to use the phone or send e-mail, but simply had the chance to clear their heads and to hear themselves think. A majority of Intel’s trial group recommended that the policy be extended to others.

THE average American spends at least eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen, Nicholas Carr notes in his eye-opening book “The Shallows,” in part because the number of hours American adults spent online doubled between 2005 and 2009 (and the number of hours spent in front of a TV screen, often simultaneously, is also steadily increasing).

The average American teenager sends or receives 75 text messages a day, though one girl in Sacramento managed to handle an average of 10,000 every 24 hours for a month. Since luxury, as any economist will tell you, is a function of scarcity, the children of tomorrow, I heard myself tell the marketers in Singapore, will crave nothing more than freedom, if only for a short while, from all the blinking machines, streaming videos and scrolling headlines that leave them feeling empty and too full all at once.

Blaise Pascal first explained his wager in Pen...
Blaise Pascal

The urgency of slowing down — to find the time and space to think — is nothing new, of course, and wiser souls have always reminded us that the more attention we pay to the moment, the less time and energy we have to place it in some larger context. “Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries,” the French philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote in the 17th century, “and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” He also famously remarked that all of man’s problems come from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone . . . .

We have more and more ways to communicate, as Thoreau noted, but less and less to say. Partly because we’re so busy communicating. And — as he might also have said — we’re rushing to meet so many deadlines that we hardly register that what we need most are lifelines.

So what to do? The central paradox of the machines that have made our lives so much brighter, quicker, longer and healthier is that they cannot teach us how to make the best use of them; the information revolution came without an instruction manual. All the data in the world cannot teach us how to sift through data; images don’t show us how to process images. The only way to do justice to our onscreen lives is by summoning exactly the emotional and moral clarity that can’t be found on any screen.

6 a.m.

That’s what time sleep came to  me this morning. So no writing from me, but a nice passage that I found on my tumblr dash:

I am on the edge of the crowd, at the periphery; but I belong to it, I am attached to it by one of my extremities, a hand or foot. I know that the periphery is the only place I can be, that I would die if I let myself be drawn into the center of the fray, but just as certainly if I let go of the crowd. This is not an easy position to stay in, it is even very difficult to hold, for these beings are in constant motion and their movements are unpredictable and follow no rhythm. They swirl, go north, then suddenly east; none of the individuals in the crowd remains in the same place in relation to the others. So I too am in perpetual motion; all this demands a high level of tension, but it gives me a feeling of violent, almost vertiginous, happiness.” A very good schizo dream. To be fully a part of the crowd and at the same time completely outside it, removed from it: to be on the edge . . .

~ Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus. 2. 1914: On or Several Wolves. (pg. 29)

“I don’t believe in aging. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun.” ~ Virginia Woolf

                   

“There is a certain part of all of us that lives outside of time. Perhaps we become aware of our age only at exceptional moments and most of the time we are ageless.” ~ Milan Kundera

The image reflects my essential reality.

The quotes echo the philosophy of my psyche.

The song captures my sentiments on my birthday.

Music by Sick Puppies, “That Time of Year”

The Moral Dilemma of Memory and Recall

Memory and Recall

infinity-2-touched-up1
Infinity 2 1998 by L. Liwag

Not Sophie’s Choice

What do you do with information that you never wanted in the first place? I mean the kind that you knew might be out there, but you really did not want to know, because in the knowing, someone would be hurt? The kind, that once revealed, could not be unrevealed, no matter how much you wanted it to go away? The kind, that once you found it, could really really change the very fabric of something? What do you do in that situation?

Do you go ahead and open the file and read, knowing that what’s inside is going to change your life forever? This is what could be categorized as a moral dilemma, and in philosophy, the moral dilemma has been argued since Plato. For example, do you return a borrowed weapon to a person who is not in his right mind knowing that he might do harm to himself or someone else because he has asked for the retur of his property? The question might seem like a no-brainer; however, you do have a moral obligation to return property that is not yours, do you not? However, the needs of the many in Plato’s case clearly outweigh the needs of the one, the man who is not in his right mind, so perhaps this is not such a clear case of a moral dilemma.

But what about the file with the information? You know that the file contains information that you need to know. The file does not belong to you. Technically, you are snooping. Opening the file will reveal the information that you need in order to make an important decision. Leaving the file alone will respect the owner’s privacy, but will leave you in ignorance. The uncertainty here may arise from the uncertainty of the consequences. For some people, the answer is very apparent: You must respect the file owner’s privacy.

However, let’s say that there are extenuating circumstances. For example, this file owner has been caught in deceptive practices before, and therefore, there is a high likelihood that he is doing so again, even though you do not want to believe that this is the case at this time. Do you leave the file untouched and remain ignorant, even though you have reason to believe that the file owner is behaving badly again or do you violate the file owner’s privacy in order to prove or disprove your theory? Is this a case in which either decision is going to leave you feeling guilty no matter which decision you make, guilty as in carrying some moral residue for your action or inaction?

Amazing isn’t it that something that seems to be so clear-cut as opening a file can become so problematic. But the truth is, nothing is clear-cut. Nothing is clean and neat. If you open that file and read it, and the information confirms what you believed to be true, then you now have to carry the burden of that knowledge. If you open that file and read it, and the information disproves what you believed, then you now have to carry around an incredible weight of guilt for intruding upon a person’s privacy and disbelieving said person when he was actually telling the truth in the first place.

This is actually a lose/lose proposition, and you have put all of your money on black. And guess where the ball just landed? Red.

You now know more than you ever wanted to know. You have violated someone’s privacy. And you feel as if you are covered in layers and layers of slime that no loofah will ever be able to penetrate. Congratulations. This is why you are not in the intelligence business.

Unfortunately for you, this is only the first step in your journey. You will now have to act on what you have learned. The threads have just begun the slow process of unraveling. Gird your loins. It is only going to get more painful from this point forward. You have no idea of how slowly a heart can break and what can fall into the vast crevasse that opens in the middle.

Infallible Memory of Greek Pantheon

Mnemosyne

 

Memory assails me

pierces my being,

sharp as a needle

withdraws recall like blood

in its relentless pursuit

to overtake my consciousness.

Vial after vial it sucks.

It will not be sated

until it possesses all,

every hoarded corpuscle

of forgotten remembrance.

 

It matters not that I bathed

carefully in the waters of Lethe,

bartered for reborn innocence

in exchange for my soul.

There may as well be rubber tubing

pulled tautly ‘round my arm

forcing my veins to yield their secrets

like an addict.

 

I awake on the floor,

naked, battered, and sore,

remember everything in its stark detail,

all the years of hiding

gone, stripped from me.

I cannot put back

what has been released

I cannot unsee

what is burnished now in blood

on the broken shards of mirror

strewn about on the tiles surrounding me.

This then, is what awaits me—

past is present,

step into now.

 

Lolita Liwag

November 24, 2008