I haven’t written much about being ‘Netless (one month, five days, and seven hours as I write this, but who’s counting?) because after the first few days of adjustment, it hasn’t had that much impact.
Sometimes it’s devilishly inconvenient. When I desperately — I assure you, desperately — needed to know all the Hogwarts house colors, heads, and ghosts, I had to wait all the way until the next morning to look them up, oh alas alack.
Other than that and slower correspondence, the impact has been small and mostly positive.
My favorite thing about this ‘Netless interval is having a “moment out of time” several mornings a week.
This weekend I read Oliver Sacks’ tiny mini-tome, Gratitude. I really mean tiny. It’s a book you can finish in half an hour.
It consists of four short essays, all written in the two years before his death. All four reflect on aging and dying as Sacks went from a robust 79-year-old who swam a mile a day to an invalid dying of liver cancer. He really says nothing new or profound. For that matter he doesn’t say much overtly about gratitude. The attraction is, of course, that Oliver Sacks is saying the rather familiar things about death.
He lived in front of the world for all those decades, a man of the mind who also studied minds and wrote about them in the liveliest way. So you know that when he quotes a philosopher, said philosopher was likely to have been a good friend. And you know that when his cousin turns him on to a good idea, it’s going to be his cousin the Nobel Prize winner.
In this case his cousin the Nobel Prize winning economist, Robert John Aumann, is also an observant Orthodox Jew, who inspired the last essay in the book, “Sabbath.”
I’ve always admired such strict observances as not even being willing to drive a car or flip a light switch or turn on a stove burner from some arcane-but-precise moment on Friday to some arcane-but-precise moment on Saturday. At the same time, it also seems silly. Srsly you can’t turn on a 21st-century LED light on the Sabbath because of a millennia-old proscription against lighting fires on that day? Well, yeah, it makes a certain bureaucratic sense. But …
Yet I sometimes find myself yearning for such ritual, such steadfast belief in something unknowable. I’m not patient enough to practice rituals that don’t make sense to me (whether the rituals of a mainstream religion or some neopagan thing like honoring the four corners), but it seems like such an honorable and mindful ideal.
Sacks wrote of the Sabbath differently. Watching his cousin and his family observe the Sabbath, he didn’t think of their observances as being hopelessly strict or meaningless, even though he’d long since ceased being a believer. He thought of their ultra-observent Sabbath as “a day out of time.” A day to step aside from the go-go world.
What a great way to view it.
That could mean a lot of different things to different people, but most of them, I’m guessing, are filled with adventures in serenity.
I once lived in a town where the most successful realtor had a huge home with its own golf course (just six holes, but still …). Incongruously to me, this estate sat bang on the side of a main highway, enduring vehicle noise day and night.
Apparently I wasn’t the only person who wondered why anyone with that much money would choose such a public location. When a curious acquaintance asked him, he had the perfect (and IMHO perfectly awful) answer: “What’s the point of being successful if nobody can see that you are?”
My idea of successful householding is about the opposite. If I were “as rich as Creosote” (a Terry Pratchettism), I’d build a tiny gem of a house (fan shaped, with a sweep of windows on the rounded side and movable shoji-screen walls within) on a hilltop in the middle of 50,000 wooded acres. It would have a single winding access road nobody could even find and no sounds other than those provided by nature (or perhaps a few strategically placed manmade brooks or waterfalls). It would be in the State of Jefferson, near the coast, and the hilltop would be cleared enough that I could enjoy a sweeping ocean view. But nobody — nobody — would ever “view” me.
How about you? If you could live anywhere and any way you wanted, what would you do?
BTW, I have a bigger blog I’m working on this morning. I’ll probably schedule it for posting on Saturday.
I’ve been very busy the last couple of weeks, but yesterday I managed to wind up all the big deadline-y things. I enjoyed the work, but finishing felt great. The sun was shining, too, after torrential rains earlier in the week and more wetness in the forecast as far as the weatherperson’s eye can see.
Following an afternoon dog walk, I mixed myself a big Bloody Mary, vaped a bowl of Strawberry Cough, and took a long soak in my happily renewed clawfoot tub. Glorious.
Well, both. Saturday I woke up without Internet. And I’m looking at going ‘Netless for six months. Although I suspended service mostly to economize, I was both looking forward to ‘Netless peace and feeling nervous about cutting back my means of livelihood.
Since waking up that first morning I haven’t really worried about the earning-a-living part. That’s manageable. I’ve done it before, after all. But you know what really drove me crazy? It was the day of the Nevada Democratic caucuses and I couldn’t play political junkie.
I have only one potential means of getting news: NPR on a clock radio. But I can’t bear the racket in the house and I’m way past the idea that I should have to wait until someone else chooses to deliver the news I want to hear on their schedule.
How 20th century!
I’m okay with NPR in the car, but Old Blue’s radio doesn’t work, so that’s that.
Gasp. Newsless. Utterly newsless. As bare of news as one of Joel’s plucked chickens is of feathers. On a day that might make political history. Madness!
I couldn’t even get a weather report. And what if there’s a tornado? A hurricane? A rain of frogs! It could happen — and who’d warn me to expect frogs splatting down from the sky? Or even mild tadpole showers? No one, that’s who.
I missed simply sitting down with the computer during breaks. And Saturday I needed breaks from all that cleaning and drilling and cussing.
There’s solitaire. But it’s not the same. Of course, the caucuses turned out as boring as, and more predictable than, solitaire. Good thing I didn’t waste all that time tracking live blogs, eh? But I so wanted Hillary humiliated. Oh well.
That said, Saturday was also a beautiful day. Nice enough to leave the door open for the critters to wander in and out and the fresh February air to destuff the house. Working in the kitchen with paint stripper, followed by Goof-Off, followed by Brasso, and all accompanied with Elbow Grease (TM), clear air was much appreciated.
As was the sheer focus on getting things done.
Habit kept drawing me back over to the computer before I’d realize, “Oh, there’s nothing there” and get on with life.
I was achy by evening, but satisfied. Habit is a cuss to change. And it’s odd earning a living on a machine that also serves as the closest thing to an unhealthy addiction I’ve ever had. Not an ideal combo, that.
But I could get used to this. By Sunday I was starting to and Monday I was so busy I didn’t miss home Internet at all. There’s the library. It let me schedule this post and look up how to fix old mortise locks.
Even if I need to spend an hour or more at the library some days, it’s nice to be able to walk away from the constant noise and buzz and intrusion of the thing, too. To put a box around the endless, everywhere Web. Limits. It’s more about that than it is about trying to escape it altogether. Establishing a zone of peacefulness. I can already feel that.
But by damn, when I want to look something up on Wikipedia, boy is it a nuisance to know I have to delay gratification, maybe even by a couple of whole days, can you imagine??? Oh, the deep inner torment!
But speaking of following orders, what the hell kind of government would do this — or even think of ordering thugs to do such a thing??? (Another look at it with more detail. Both stolen from Wendy McElroy.)
And speaking of unsurprising things, why are we always supposed to be so shocked when, generation after generation, war after war, the fedgov perpetrates atrocities upon its own soldiers, then not only denies doing so, but even denies care to the poor saps?
And if you prefer more peaceful thoughts, you can download high-res versions of 19th-century Japanese woodblock prints, courtesy of he-knows-who-he-is in comments.
Finally, I’m not linking because I expect you to care about Nevada or South Carolina caucusaries or primuses. I’m linking it just because the name of Clinton’s campaign manager, Robby Mook, always makes me laugh. I mean, is that name straight out of Atlas Shrugged, or what?
The precariat. It’s apparently the social class I’ve belonged to nearly all my adult life. In the growing American class war, it is a growing class. The precariat: Those who freelance or otherwise work without traditional benefits or even minimal assurances of security. Those who live precariously.
I’ll tell you right off that nothing dramatic happened. But it was interesting.
I’ve been working my way up to making my quarterly stop at the town liquor store. Today was the day for me to buy my Bloody Mary vodka. But as I pulled up at the curb in Old Blue, a black-clad, hooded young man wearing a backpack stepped inside the shop.
Something about him caused my hackles to rise. I nearly drove off. Then I thought about Deana (not her real name), who owns the pocket-sized liquor store. A young woman in there all alone. I got out of the car, laid my hand on a weapon and peeked through the glass door.
Deana seemed relaxed behind the counter and the stranger, with his back to me, didn’t appear to be doing anything untoward. So I went on in. The only money in my wallet was a $100 bill somebody gave me last week. Even though everything felt peaceable, I knew I didn’t want to wave that thing in front of that man, so I paid by debit card and as I was doing so he left.
Deana sighed and said, “Thank you for coming in just then. That guy was creeping me out. He says he’s trying to get to (Big City) and he wanted me to drive him there. Maybe he was harmless, but …”
I asked her if she was armed. She showed me a couple of non-lethal weapons behind the counter, admitting that she couldn’t find them in a hurry if she needed to.
“Have you considered getting a gun?”
“Well, you know how it is. They say you’re more likely to shoot yourself than somebody else.”
“That’s old debunked nonsense.”
We then talked about training and muscle memory and how we might react in a panic. Apparently, some of her friends, including police, have urged her to take training with the man who instructs all the local cops. She’s not inclined to, but I told her about the kind of training they get — not just plinking at a target, but using cover and concealment, shooting while lying on their backs or crawling on the ground, even shooting when half-blinded by Vaseline-smeared goggles. That interested her.
Don’t know if she’ll change her mind. But in her position, I sure would.
I finally finished a good first draft of that cannabis article and got it sent off to 10 people so they could check the parts about them and offer corrections on anything else they spot.
Already heard back from three. Not a single change requested or goof noted. That’s unusual. It won’t hold for all 10, but very nice start.
The interviewees range from a police chief to a couple whose medical dispensary was destroyed by the DEA. And here they are, all in harmony, even as they come from such different perspectives. I simply can’t stress enough what a remarkable experience this is, both writing about it and witnessing it.
The one big drawback of the writing part: It’s exhausting. All the research (and all the things I still didn’t learn). The scheduling and pulling myself out of my hermit hut. The days and days of drafting, which, with so much information, is like wrestling an octopus. Even the best moments, the interviews themselves, leave me all emptied out. It’s the most glorious exhaustion. But still.
The last couple writing days were all about shifting the last bits into their place in the article, polishing, and — above all — cutting, cutting, cutting, cutting. I sacrificed nearly 1,500 of my own, precious, darling words in the interest of the whole. By the time I’d sent all the emails winging on their way with article attched, I was — not kidding — slightly faint.
I don’t mean to sound melodramatic. After all, I’m not also dying of tuberculosis in a garrett. (Always a plus. that.) Life’s good. I’m just tired. If I’ve been a little quiet and continue to be a bit more this week, that’s why.