Monday, March 30, 2009

The Digital Curtain

I read another one of those pap journalism stories today about how everything we put online is now sifted through by these companies that create profiles of us for voyeuristic employers and presumably stalkers to digitally track us. The author was going on about having too much information now about his lawyer's hair implants, or photos of his child's fifth grade teacher pregnant. Our desire to express ourselves or be ourselves online is now being used to judge us, categorize us and ridicule us.

So the answer would seem to be that we need to button down our digital lives in the Puritan manner our society seems to require. We can't be professional or reliable employees if we have a human side or quirky side.

Wasn't the point of blogging to be able to share something about ourselves? Isn't a social network of "friends" supposed to be where you talk about hobbies, share photos and "be ourselves?"

The irony of this all is that it is more often than not the professional self that is not real yet that is what we would seem to be demanding of people now on the Internet. At what point do we stop sterilizing our personalities?

Unfortunately, I believe many employers are now exploiting the economy to frighten employees into submission. People are tucking their heads down and skulking around their jobs, afraid of the bogeyman the media has turned the recession into.

If only FDR could remind people that we really have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Layers

I have formed my own theory about the creation of the universe and all that we know. I think everything we know, have experienced and will experience has its foundation in layers. Everything builds on what has been before. Life is simply one big onion.

In my theory, if an archaeologist digs deep enough at a site he will eventually discover not only the past, but the present and eventually the future. I mean this literally as well as symbolically.

In my own experience, I have frequent flashes of the past as if it was occurring now. I assume this is because the chemical reactions in my brain are dusting off the memory synapses of past events and making them seem as though they are happening concurrently with the present. Or, perhaps all of my experience is happening at once in a microcosmic mirror of the multiple realities theory of Quantum Physics (I am not going to explain this theory to you...use Google like everyone else and sift through the bull shit to find something that seems reasonable).

I touched on the concept of human knowledge building on the layers of knowledge left by the generations before in my post Shoulder of giants back in September 2008. Layering on that post (ha, ha, ha...), I firmly believe our own lives are forged by layer after layer of experience that collects like silt on our consciousness. We are who we are based on who we have been.

At times, though, I get very weary of the sifting through the murkier layers trying to recall when a layer happened (or if it is happening now). When I was 13 or 14 and there were quite a bit less layers, I remember wondering what my life would be like at the turn of the century and I was a feeble old man of 42. At 42, after the layers had really piled up, I didn't so much wonder what my life would be at 50 as wish I was 13 or 14 again with less layers. Now, at 51, I just feel the layers piling on. I'm too weary most of the time to think about being 60 or 70.

Occasionally, the layers merge. I play with my children and find myself in the layer where I was a boy who climbed the apple tree in our back yard and stared at the clouds dreaming of great adventures and marveling at how blue the sky could be. But the fragile thread that holds me in that layers breaks when I glimpse myself in the reflection in a mirror. Then I find myself back in my middle aged man layer.

Okay, the layer theory isn't perfect. But it is interesting.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Blank stare

I don't know what to write about anymore. I never thought I was one of those "writer's block" kind of people. Once I got rid of my typewriter, I thought I'd gotten over this terror of a blank page.

Fortunately, computers provide so much distraction that even a constipated writer has plenty to do while he or she is trying to draw on their muse. There is no such thing as a blank computer screen. Something is always blinking at you.

I bought my first computer back in 1986. It was an IBM clone made by a company called Leading Edge. I believe they were manufactured in Korea. I paid $2500 back then. And that was considered pretty cheap. When IBM came out with the personal computer a few years earlier they were in the $5000 range. So the clones opened up the cheaper computer market for those of us who couldn't drop five grand on what was considered a glorified typewriter.

My first PC used floppy drives and pretty much had the computing capability of today's cell phones. It came with a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and the ability to play crude video games. I thought my PC would be my ticket to fame as a writer. I figured it would pry the words out of my head and quickly multiply them into a major best seller. I ended up writing a few short stories and playing a lot of the crude video games.

The word processors have become super sophisticated compared to the one I had on my clone and the video games have become pretty darn realistic. But computers still just give you something to do while you are waiting for your writers block to unblock. Though I couldn't imagine going back to a typewriter and I can't even read my own handwriting.

But I digress. Because I don't know what to write about. I'm going to go play a video game or see if anyone has sent me a stupid list to fill out on Facebook.

God I love technological improvements.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Kindness of strangers

"Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. "
Blanche Dubois, Streetcar Named Desire

There is something strangely comforting about talking to strangers on the Web through your blog. And I use the term strangers in the sense that I have never met most people who read my blog. They are really not so much strangers as friends I have never met.

Odd concept.

The people I have never met seem to be less judgemental. Perhaps it is because they have no expectations or preconceived notions about who I am or how I should be. People I know often can't get past the me they think I am.

That has its limitations.

This is the reason I like to blog, but Facebook bothers me. Either the people who are my friends on Facebook aren't open to the quirkier side of Tim or they don't really want to see it. And it lacks the protection of really being anonymous that blogging can offer. In most cases, the blogging community has been very open to my quirky side. I have rarely had to be guarded.

I wish that the people who know me in the real world could accept the me in the virtual world. Because that is the me that I feel the most comfortable with. And ironically, I think the virtual me is more the real me than the me that is virtually there in the real world (I couldn't resist the play on words).

It's not that I don't think I am real on a day to day basis. It's just that, who can really be themselves at work, at the store, or even interacting socially. You have to act in certain ways to avoid offending people or creating conflict or losing your job. You can't always have deep conversations about sensitive subjects because most people can't function on a deep level or they just don't want to hear anything deeper than the weather.

I suppose that is what keeps the fabric of society from flapping in the wind. Walking a normal path is easier because it is well worn. Every now and then I catch myself deviating from the path in meetings or hallway conversations at work and I see the panicked looks of the people I'm with. More often than not I jump back on the normal path or slink away to my office chastising myself for not just maintaining the status quo.

But I wonder a great deal about purpose in life as I slog along the beaten path staring at my feet. Once again, I think it is a middle aged thing. Because I have finally accepted that we are all going to die, it is just a matter of when. So I wonder what that will be like and whether or not I will panic at the time because I stayed on the safe path for too long and didn't really accomplish anything great other than help raise my family.

In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that is enough. I hold my children or watch them play and marvel at what is ahead of them and what they will experience on the journey. And I encourage them meander off the path now and then.

I know all of this sounds odd (which is why I don't write it on Facebook). But you are all my friendly strangers, right (or my strange friends) and you will understand that I am just being me, right?