Sunday, April 5, 2015

A human-shaped life

This is Fort Zachary Taylor State Park in Key West, our March getaway.
I should just write about that: The butterflies, pelicans and gypsy roosters. The soft clacking of palm fronds outside our open bedroom window at night, which kept fooling us into thinking it was raining. The charismatic otherness of Key West—its roguish uncle, dirt-under-the-fingernails, bootlegger brand of romance. It was lovely.
I can't, though. When I tried to, my brain formed a perfect logjam. 
Not writer's block. Writer's block is not why I've been away. It's more: I feel increasingly uncomfortable with the amount of time I spend in front of screens, and I haven't figured out what to do about it vis-a-vis blogging.
(Yes, there's an immense irony to writing online bewailing how spending hours staring at screens keeps us from getting out and experiencing the world with our senses.)
These words I read yesterday hit me like a truck:
"The present is going by and we are not in it. Maybe when the present is past, we will enjoy sitting in dark rooms and looking at pictures of it, even as the present keeps arriving in our absence." —Wendell Berry

Right there, one of my deepest aging-person fears: That writing, blogging, photography, reading, television, social media have already taken the place of living the majority of my life, and that I have no time left to waste on a single one of them. 
And by living my life, I mean directly experiencing, engaging, smelling, touching and feeling it, instead of living through another's experience. 
Will I feel comforted to know when I have grown too old to walk under the trees that I have 80 Pinterest boards where I've collected pictures of somebody else's present? 
No. (Though they are really nice boards.)
My Rational Side recognizes this is not an all-or-nothing proposition. I have loved engaging with many of these activities. They have enriched my life and experience, and given me a way to contribute my own voice to the Great Conversation of the living. I may be missing the point by contemplating heaving them overboard.
But my Fear Side says: Every minute you stare at a screen (a page, a monitor, a viewfinder) you are frittering away another precious moment of your time on Earth, human. 
"Yet our organic attunement to the local earth is thwarted by our ever-increasing intercourse with our own signs. Transfixed by our technologies, we short-circuit the sensorial reciprocity between our breathing bodies and the bodily terrain. Human awareness folds in upon itself, and the senses—once the crucial site of our engagement with the wild and animate earth—become mere adjuncts of an isolate and abstract mind bent on overcoming an organic reality that now seems disturbingly aloof and arbitrary."—David Abram, The Spell of the Sensuous

I am not alone in these questions. A certain restless contingent of web-loggers are squirming like wild salmon swimming for home against a raging river current, trying to find to a place that feels more home, more authentic, more wild and human-shaped. 
So where do I stand? Does writing make my or others' experience richer, clearer, more meaningful? Or does it keep my awareness "folded in upon myself" and distract me from living in closer connection with physical reality?

Maybe the real question is: What will give me peace right now? 
So I needed to post this. And that seems to answer at least one of my many questions. 

And what the hey, here's another photo from Key West, where such fraught questions take sail on turquoise seas, never again to trouble the horizon.

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