Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The mental narrative has changed

I have a voice in my head. It talks and makes observations. It has suggestions. It can be angry, happy, sad, and it is the voice I hear in my head all the time. Some people have voices, but they're not here. We're talking about having one voice in the head. Yeah, I have just one.

I've been recalling the voices I've heard over my life, the influences on my thinking and now notice a dramatic shift in the way that I think due to the internet.

I remember the days before the internet. Quiet times were really quiet. It was just me, a great sandwich, a bag of chips and a Coke, all in the shade of the trees at the bottom of Sand Dune Hill. There was no cell phone, no smart phone, no computers. Just thoughts running through my head as I ate my sandwich, my chips and drank my Coke as an adolescent boy.

What ran through my head was everything that I heard from other people in school, what I saw in TV (not that much) and what I read in books (all over my mind). There was no phone to peer at while I'm looking for something to do. I made something to do with my mind. I carried magazines or books around when I wanted something to read. That is what I did before the age of the network.

If I wanted to call someone, I needed a payphone or I had to go home to make the call. I might stop in to see someone on the way home on my bike. I would think while I was riding. I did not play music from a little box connected to a headset. There was no distraction available to take away from the ride, the wind and the moment of riding downhill.

I can recall days when I was kid, where I had truly quiet and peaceful moments. I enjoyed spending time under shade trees at the park, sunsets at the end of the pier on my bike and the thoughts running through my head during long walks alone. I know from that experience that true solitude is hard to attain in the age of the internet.

I can also recall a time that I spent at a yoga retreat on Mount Palomar for a week. It was a great time and I learned a lot about myself while I was there for a week. No phone, no computers, no nothing. Just me and the other people seeking some peace. On one particular day there, we had a no talking day. We made gestures to communicate but said no words. That experience allowed me to empty my mind to find other parts of my mind that I didn't know were there. I had peace.

Now I see myself today, on the internet everyday, reading, writing, texting, watching videos and listening to music. Some of the music I listen to I own, most I do not. There is no DJ blather to muddy my mind. No commercials beating on my brain to tell me what to do. In the morning, I listen to really quiet music and write as I'm writing here. I read for inspiration for articles. I watch videos to learn more about the world I live in.

There is so much information available on the internet now, that I've noticed that it tends to crowd out the personal narrative. It is easy to become overwhelmed with all the minutia, the trivia, the facts - whatever. Want to follow the story on Flight MH370? You can do that all day, every day for as long as they still cannot find the plane. Even after they find the plane, CNN will still be analyzing the facts of the story until God knows when.

I like to read on the internet, so don't get me wrong. I enjoy the media that I get to sample every day from the internet. It is a part of our culture. There are some stories that I like to follow in detail, but for every story that I follow, I lose a little bit of my own story.

When we follow all that stuff on the internet, we can lose sight of who we are, where we belong, and where to find peace and quiet. I can only read so many stories, but when my daughter trundles in to see me, I stop what I'm doing and spend time with her. She has her own narrative. She sees me as I really am because there is no distraction available to her so that she can ignore me or make me go away. She reminds me that I am here, not there, on the internet.

It is easy to get lost on the internet, to forget oneself. The internet is a very interesting place, but I wouldn't want to live there. The people in my life remind of where I am, they are a point of reference I can see whenever I'm not looking at a screen. They are the anchor I need to reality, the true source of personal narrative, because they reflect me exactly as I am. Now.
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