unplugged

The closed network of a printed book….seems to offer greater serenity.   So muses Mohsin Hamid in Bookends in the New York Times Book Review.  Anna Holmes chimes in on the e-book v. print book boxing match.  Both conclude (as do I), that e-books can complement print books, but that they will never replace them.

This discussion can expand.  On Saturday, I sat in the car as my husband stood in line at the hardware store.  I can’t be bothered to plug in my iPhone to the car stereo, so I purchase real CDs.  As I waited, I flipped through the little book that accompanied Lorde’s Pure Heroine CD.  There I read:

Call all the ladies out
They’re in their finery
A hundred jewels on throats
A hundred jewels between teeth
Now bring my boys in
Their skin in craters like the moon
The moon we love like a brother, while he glows through the room

Brilliant, huh?  Doubly brilliant when you hear her sing, but reading these words on paper gives me a renewed respect for songwriters.

I harken back to the late ’80’s, when it was a thrill to open a CD case.  I’d read along with the lyrics, gaze at the artwork, and inspect the liner thank-you notes.   All that has disappeared when we buy an album off iTunes.

Yes, buying books and music online is terribly convenient.  But it doesn’t have to be the only way.

This year, I realized with a start, that with the advent of email, I had stopped writing rambly handwritten letters to my Grandma, who is now 92.  She does not have a computer, and answering machines still befuddle her.  (I don’t have the heart to tell her it is all voice mail).  I had stopped communicating with her through the written word because she was not on my email contact list.  I rectified that, pronto, printing off letters in 16 point font (to save my Grandma’s aging eyes from my handwritten scribbles), signing I love you, Grandma, and tucking the letter into a good old fashioned mailbox.

Since January 1, many folks, including me, have (ironically) announced online that they are going to cut back on their dependence on technology.  Handsfree Mama has a lovely blog and new book that speak to this very point.  Sometimes I spy on the parents who accompany their children to the playground across the street.  I’d estimate that 70% of them are looking at their phones. (A confession:  you can often add me to that percentage, too).

Start with baby steps, and with whatever works for you.  I never did set my iPhone up with email.  Yes, I get texts, and obsessively check Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store.  But emails have to wait until I get home.  There’s great freedom in not having all the information right now.  In 2014, aren’t all emails urgent and demanding an immediate response?  I’d rather not know and my ignorance is bliss.  I actually anticipate checking my email when I get home – controlled, they seem like less of an intrusion on my time.

Finally, my laptop firmly resides in my home office upstairs.  Sure, I haul it to work meetings, but in the house, I pretend it is a 1997 monster of a computer, complete with thick heavy monitor, attached keyboard and massive tower.  It is not a mobile device, and it does not travel around the home, less it tempt me with the bleep of incoming emails when I’m having dinner.

Hamid also talks about putting a passcode on his mobile device’s browser, “…this setting serves as a reminder to question manufactured desires, to resist unless I have a good cause.”  My own mantra for technology is:  Just because I can, does that mean that I will?

Six days ago, I resolved not to disappear into my den of email when my kids get home from school.  This resolution began today, their first day back, and so far I haven’t broken it.  I’m writing this blog post longhand, on cute notepaper that says, ‘A little birdie told me.’  I’ll have to transcribe this to WordPress later, when the kids are in bed.  People should trump technology (especially the littlest people of them all).

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