Thursday, October 9, 2008

Digital Spring and Fall

I love the internet, and I hate the internet.

I heard a talk recently that described how a scientist a few hundred years ago might live in a world of knowledge that was summed up in one meagre shelf full of books. Now there is almost no limit.

But I could spend all my time learning what the internet offers and not do anything myself. Or I could spent all my time bickering with strangers on the internet neither learning anything nor doing anything.

I really do love the internet. Without it I would never have emailed some guy in Canada--heard about, applied for, and received a generous grant and embarked on a career that provides my current generous salary... and purpose in life. I would never have sent my writing to an epublisher and entered into a while new identity of 'author' unleasing the artist (and pornographer) within.

And I really do hate the internet. It sucks up hours of every day of my life. It makes me act impulsively and emotionally, when my basic nature is sedate and analytical. It makes me do things I am not proud of, and then fixes them into the digital record for all time.

So what can I do? What can anyone do? I set limits. I set limits of time. I set limits of amount. I do my best to be moderate in all things... including moderation.

All people are sometimes emotional, sometimes impulsive, sometimes just outright idiots. I try to minimise those occasions and I try not to beat myself up about them... well, not too much or for too long, anyway.

The internet is like all the works of humankind. It is flawed, and ugly and wonderful. And in a rare fit of maudlin self indulgence I am going to share my favorite written work in all the world: Gerard Manley Hopkin's poem "Spring and Fall".

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

The internet, ultimatelty, is people--is ourselves. We learn; we create; we waste our lives. We err; we forgive; we move on--or we don't. What can I say. It is an honor and a terror to be part of this.

I am not sure whether or not I am making an idiot of myself even by saying this. But what can you do? This is the human condition. On or offline it is essentially the same. It is the blight man was born for, but it is also Goldengrove.

1 comment:

Helen said...

I have learned to turn the computer off when the kids are up and I am in charge. I now only work when they're asleep (5AM, nap time, after bed time) or on Sundays when I catch up on blogs or go to the library to work. Any other time, I need to focus on my REAL life and take care of my family. It has made things easier. I get more done now when I work, and I get to enjoy my kids more.

Yes, the internet is a reflection of human nature. We can either lose ourselves in all the data, blogs, chats, tweets, etc., or we can do something wonderful with it. Most of the times, we do a mish mash of both.

And I am rapidly discovering today that your blog is one of the three or four that I am most likely to read and comment on of all the blogs I subscribe to. Hmmm... time to trim my reading list to the ones I obviously care about the most.