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.


  1. I am glad you posted something as I have been wanting to write you a note. My life has dramtically changed. In 1 sense I have dramatically reduced my "screen staring": I gave up net access & only use at the library with my ipad. Also dropped texting & have no mailbox on my phone. Gone as low-tech as possible, want 2 interact with the world around me & connect, & work on my art, after ages of being someplace I couldn't stand. I am now in your homeland on lake superior in a village. The place I'm staying is not good: there are many problems of which I was deceived. But I'm working to deal with this situation. I'm very glad to be here is this beautiful windswept surroundings though, but still have my work cut out for me. Hope you do still write here sometimes. I'll either be in MSP in Aug or Oct; if you want to write sometime, you can figure out my email very easily. Best wishes Carmine & thanks for suggesting this lovely place. -Reifyn

    1. Reifyn, I'm so glad that you got out of "Dodge" and came to Minnesota! Let it be known that I take no responsibility for mosquitoes, ha. If you're living in the place I think you are, you are truly "Up North" and can now sniff at visitors from "the Cities", who are not hardy enough to brave the winters of northern MN. I do hope Superior serves as a powerful muse for making your art, as it was for George Morrison and all kinds of other artists. Just breathing in the lovely fragrance of all that vast volume of fresh, cold water and the piney woods, may it rejuvenate your spirit! All my best!

    2. Thank you Carmine. We will see if I'm here next winter: housing in scarce here & the place I'm staying is not conducive to working on art. If I join the art center I may have a bit of space I can use over there. It feels more like my travelling days of having no space of my own apart from that which presents itself...but when you take a place sight-unseen, these things can happen. No mosquitoes yet, fortunately. They don't always like me anyhow. Lots of crows here, but I miss my namesake, the raven. Songbirds wake me each day though...and the wind, howling. Seagulls...first I've seen in years. The locals haven't quite figured out what to make of me yet. Probably they never will. At least i'm not waking up to angry villagers with pitchforks & torches, which has been known to happen some places. Well that's about it for now. I'm sure you will find your balance of online connection and this world we seem to live in. They are both illusions anyway. Only what comes from the Heart is real, and you appear to See this, in whatever way you connect with the rest of us. Peace to you, Reifyn

  2. Beautiful and well said, Carmine. What has brought me to utter agreement is my pregnancy. Suddenly, my intuition became heightened, scanning everything I fed myself (physically & intellectually & emotionally) for wellness. Turns out, "screen-sucking" isn't very nourishing. I'm still on my own blog break while I figure this out. I want connection and a web space... I think... but I need to pare it down. How, I don't know, but I hope my intuition & belly will reveal in due time.
    Much love <3

    1. Lovely Raquel, I am very happy for you, Jordan and new baby-in-the-making...well on your way to triple goddess-dom. :) I hope you are loving every moment of this time and marking its progress in your own ways, whether private or public. The connections made while keeping a web log (and in reading the life journeys of others) really shouldn't be underestimated, especially for a less-social introvert like me. And figuring out what feels right NOW is always going to be an ongoing process. Plus, t's not just about the screen time spent in the writing, but wrestling with the question: how to express oneself while in the midst of inner confusion and undefinable goals? I guess the answer is, "imperfectly and messily."

    2. Interesting you should clarify... I recently wrote a friend that since becoming pregnant, I felt lost- creatively and majorly. She said that it's a time of inner creativity... energy directed within... it helped me to realize there is a balancing point in life, cyclically, in which the energy becomes directed within. I know this "lost" feeling... felt it after dropping out of art school, for two years before moving on to uni, felt it again in Los Angeles when my creative studies stopped nurturing me. Maybe it is similar for you, maybe mountains are being moved on the inside, preparing you for change & opening flower buds on the outside. That's what I try to think anyway, when I get confused & frustrated. <3

    3. Thank you my dear, I hope that's it, another inner reorganizing fueling outward somethings. You are doing a MAJOR act/labor of creation right now at a cellular level, plus I imagine on many other levels, too. Be well!


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