Monday, April 20, 2009

Painted Fire


Words are only painted fire; a look is the fire itself.
Mark Twain

...a while ago, most excellent yoga blogger Brooks wrote about an article in The Sun magazine by Wendell Berry called Why I Am Not Going to Buy a Computer...having read both, I left a comment...which, as my comments tend to do, veered away into rambling that had very little to do with what I was commenting on....now, in the spirit of Earth Day, I’m gonna recycle part of it here, while, as Yoga for Cynics posts tend to do, rambling on even further....

...I like to think of myself as a Luddite...with a blog and an ipod...but no air conditioning, and a cell phone that doesn’t take pictures or show movies...so can relate somewhat to a stodgy rejection of the digital age...seeing it as another expensive burden, another obstruction standing in the way of traditional human connections...even if it’s formed new kinds of connections as we converse effortlessly and instantly with people on the other side of the world...however many painful misunderstandings may ensue as we continue struggling to figure out the rules for a brave new radically smaller world...

....then, one could say the same of any technological innovation...including, certainly, the manual typewriters Luddite writers tend to be so proud of...as if the sages of old used them to write their sacred scriptures (note: they didn’t)...as well any form of mass communication...movable type, without a doubt...and, certainly, we can’t forget the invention of writing itself...I mean, just imagine: there was a time...for much of human beings’ tenure on earth, in fact...when a relatively close level of physical intimacy was required for any communication...to hear what another person thought, you would have to be close enough to hear that person’s voice...most likely looking into his or her face...and, chances are, you would rarely speak to anyone you hadn’t known for your or their whole life...all communication was close communication...

...then, if the invention of writing was alienating, it can’t have held a candle to the invention of words themselves...before which, I can only assume, communication must have been accomplished solely by facial expressions, and subtle—or not so subtle—gestures...and touching...no representing by phonemes or anything else...no abstraction at all...

Who needs action when you got words?
the Meat Puppets

...was writing last week...for myself...had a point, to begin with, but ended up kinda listing everything I’d been up to, or thinking about...without really exploring anything...then started getting self-reflective...about how I was just catalonging stuff...was about to fix that...make it cataloging...but decided I liked it better the way it was...listing stuff in seeming aimlessness as an expressing of longing for...what?...something more meaningful to write about? something to come up in the list that’ll catch fire and glow with transcendent meaning? or, maybe, something that couldn’t be written about at all...but that I wanted to express nonetheless...leaving me nothing but catalonging...

...while writing, was listening to the Blood on the Tracks album...in Tangled Up in Blue it sounds like Dylan sings I murdered something underneath my breath rather than I muttered...and if so, would that mean he had something meaningful to express that not only couldn’t be said aloud, but shouldn’t, under pain of death?...it’d have to be shouldn’t...you don’t murder something just because it couldn’t...

13 comments:

RB said...

I recently reviewed a book you might want to explore, it's called Script and Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting. [http://bit.ly/vJ79]

Since I wrote about it and interviewed the author, I've been practicing..cursive. You should try it.

Eco Yogini said...

a Luddite, I had never thought of myself in that way... but then I am proud that we don't even own a TV, or airconditioning, or a cellphone/blackberry/pda etc. at all. I actually have no idea how to 'text' and I am under 30yrs... is that normal? lol.
I really like technology, but at the same time I agree- communication is so much better in person (and as a professional who's job is teaching communication, I think about this human interaction a lot!).

However, blogging is fun :)
Blessings!

Melissa Garvey said...

I enjoy your rambling comments. Keep it up. And check out my new post. It's eerie how well it relates to yours.

Lydia said...

I subscribe to The Sun and also read that article. Berry's connection with his wife as part of his reasons for not buying a computer really struck me as profound. I know that my husband and I would communicate more without the distractions of both the computer and television. However, in all honesty I'm unclear as to what we'd discuss because our interests aren't parallel and sometimes not even complimentary.....as evidenced by the ways we choose to use the computer. How's that for circular angst in the technology age?


word verification: birdism
I'm getting away from this thing and heading out to my yard...now.

svasti said...

Ah yes, words... to write, or not to write... to use or mis-use... even those who should perhaps, know better. And, even when we want to, we don't always say what we mean or what we think for oh-so-many reasons.

While its true that actions do speak louder than words (IMHO), what do you do when you don't have actions to observe?

Body language and eyes, for mine, have always been the most reliable source of truth, then people's actions and lastly, words.

Without body language, sometimes I'm very unsure how to proceed, or whether to proceed at all. Which often leaves me doing nothing (a safe if painful position to take).

So easy to say or write a lie, and while words can create sublime imagery, they can also cause confusion, hurt and distrust. And once said, can more words be used to change that situation? Sometimes, perhaps...

Without words, we're incapable of expressing our thoughts and feelings in detail - words that can touch someone as much as alienate. But as you rightly point out, how much of that detail is really better off left unsaid?

Though, because we do have words... say and write, we do. So, where to draw the line?

And something that I personally find quite confusing at the moment... is there a point where it's reasonable to scrap it all and start again?

The Buddhist Conservative said...

Now that our lives have become seemingly dependent on our techowiz gadgets, few would be able to relate to a time when people had to actually pick up a pen or rip a page from a typewriter in anger when we screwed up on the next to last line.

Keep in mind that when the world lacked the the written word, toothpaste had not yet been invented. I wonder if the first words ever spoken were: "yuck, you have a piece of brontosaurus stuck in your teeth".

Sorta makes one wonder how we ever came up with language in the first place.

Aggie said...

I find technology only partly useful in this day and age. It breaks down frequently and you need to upgrade all the time to keep up with it. So not worth it for the most part. I appreciate the internet and the instant access it gives me to folk all around the world, so there are some advantages ... but in the main, I stay away from "gadgets."
I detest the people who so rudely use them while driving, in movie theatres and while you are with others in a public place. Very bad mannered in my opinion.

Lydia said...

I have returned to thank you for whatever this particular post did to make me respond in the way I did after first reading it. I thought about my comment as the day went on and I think that mindfulness carried through into the evening after my husband came home from work. We had the best quiet evening and good talk over dinner we've had in some weeks. So between the Berry article I read earlier and your post an awareness has opened. :)

Bird said...

Wow, catalonging. I want to write a whole thing in this comment about how catalonging is all I ever do, but then whenever I comment here it's always "me me me" (and still is - GAH!). I should just shut the hell up and keep reading.

The Clandestine Samurai said...

Here's what I'm thinking: if you write creatively, have you considered approaching something in the post-apocalypse genre? Reading this post made me think of "The Road" for some reason. A few characters in Chuck Palahniuk's novels have also been Luddites.

In the post-apocalypse, there could be a return to a neo-lithic age, and particular thoughts or ideas that you have about today's society could be expressed there. Just a suggestion.

Brooks Hall said...

Technology development is a part of humanity--I think. At least it's a part of the current reality... To deny or totally avoid it seems inappropriate. If I close my eyes it is still there. Besides I like it.

What freaks me is how emotionally immature we seem to be, and computers don't help us interact with each other in real, face-to-face time. Practice is required for this. So we need to use technology mindfully, and be sure to meet up with some folks in person, often enough to grow.

I love that technology and blogging allows me to exchange ideas with people that I might not be able to do otherwise.

Love you, caring and thoughtful, silly and fun, deep and inspiring bloggers!

Thank you, Dr. Jay! You made my day!

Melinda said...

Technology is here to stay but people don't have to become so invested in it. People can choose how much of their lives they want to be dependent on technology. I wouldn't have a job if it weren't for technology (as I am an online teacher)so I appreciate it quite a bit. I love my iPhone, love my BOSE stero, love being able to pay my bills online, etc. I think I use it to my advantage.

But at the same time, I think we could be losing something very human in ourselves with so much dependency on technological communication. I worry about kids growing up socially inept (at least in face to face interactions) and I see some evidence of this happening.

It all comes down to families and the values they raise their children with. I wish more parents would turn off the computers, televisions, and PS2's a few nights a week, huddle up together in front of a blazing fire and ask each other what interesting thing happened to them that day.

Great post in honor of Earth Day, Dr. Jay--

Melinda

Kikolani said...

Rambling is like stream of consciousness writing, and it can lead to lots of great discovers about ourselves and what we are thinking subconsciously. :)

~ Kristi