modern mystique

I forget, on frequent occasion, the beauty and need of escape. The pleasure that exists in the easing of a mind, in the focus on reveling in a present, simple moment.
I forget, because it is far too easy to get distracted.
Escape, as I understand and occasionally crave it, takes practice. It can take solitude or sensory deprivation, silence or self-control, a combination of many factors. What it can’t seem to take is the constant influx of the post-modern world.
My great-grandparents watched the birth of cars into society, my grandparents, flight. My parents, television, and myself? Computers and the internet, email and cellphones, social networking, and Web 2.0. If you glance back at that arc – the technological development and adoption of the past century, there is an exponential curve evident. A curve leading to the ubiquity of electronic interaction, to Twitter and Facebook, Flickr and YouTube, iPhones and Blackberrys – the younger, more energetic, frenetic siblings of cellphones and texting…
Hold any modern smartphone in your hand and augmented reality sits at your beck and call. Constant updates from friends and loose connections fill your sight, enabled GPS tracks your location, automatically Twittering any friend within a mile of you, letting them know you’d like to meet up. Text messages meander in every few minutes, picking at the ether to see who is around, to say hello, to simply get the dopamine rush offered by a response. Google Street View shows off the restaurant front where you’ll meet, with it you’ve looked beyond what your eyes can see. The photos you upload to Flickr are tagged with the location they were taken in, a friend missing out can enter the name of the restaurant and catch all of you there, texting at the goofiness of a smile, a new haircut… News sites and blogs (from the political to celebrity) have been modeled to read more efficiently on the small screen, now moving from RSS feeds into shorter data streams, grabbing the attention of the table next to you. Bills maintain a texting personality, a small @CellCompanyHere denoting your account due, a new service, an overage. Romantic interests flit in and out of contact, flirting in 180 characters or less, thumbs plying away on a small keypad, lower lip bitten. Job possibilities and contacts, acquaintances that know more about your life through Facebook updates than family do, all these pop in.
I’ve read that the average Sunday edition of the New York Times carries more information in it than an average person in the Dark Ages of Europe would have encountered over the course of their entire lifetime. I know that using a newspaper as an analogy is woefully past-due, they are nearly dead as an industry and we pack more information into most mornings than the Sunday paper. I know that whether or not it is of quality, there is a massive quantity of data available to us, literally at the brush of our fingertips, often at the forefront of our minds.
It’s been said that dating is dead – that texting and flash-mobs of friends have lead to brief meet-ups, six-degrees-of-separation connections providing commonality, groups providing anonymity and a break to the nervous stress of a first meeting. We don’t knock on doors to say hello anymore but we don’t need to. Texting is akin to it – to unexpected distractions and moments, with the same ability to ignore as the doorbell, but more frequent, our immediate response more Pavlovian.
I am living in a world where the constant influx of information drives me, feeds all of us. A world where we are all far closer to the data stream than we may care to admit. A world where boredom need not exist, where an instant hit requires only to dip the toes in, to drink just a little of the digital froth.
So escape? I get distracted. I forget. Instead of escaping into my mind alone, into contemplative silence, into peace, I escape into diversion. I end up in a whirlwind or wild ideas and useless drivel, of heart-felt moments and half-assed thoughts… I end up in the whirlwind and forget to get out, forget to break free and let my mind wander, let my thoughts settle, do something with all the ideas consumed.
I forget to escape.
They’re all tools. That’s the true trick to remember. All the toys to access the information – just tools. And tools you can set down on the work bench.
Escape is this image: Looking out to the backyard from inside the garage, camera low, on the floor. Remnant objects of a project are strewn about, evening light streaming in, and dusty footprints move out toward the backyard. Panning up, the camera catches the hint of a silhouette in the setting sun, an arm unbinding a burden, tossing it aside. The silhouette disappears, leaving the yard, walking off, simply, to somewhere else.
Somewhere a little more quiet.

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