I don’t have internet in my apartment at the moment. Nor do I have any magazine-in-the-mailbox subscriptions. These two conditions are related, and there are a couple of reasons for them. The first, the “presenting complaint”, in med-speak, is the expense. When I first came back to NY and arranged for Verizon to be my provider, the lovely introductory rate was $17.99 each month. Sign me up! When that rate expired, the new rate was $10 more per month, and now it's $44.99 per month before taxes. Just for internet.
Magazines are the same. A sweet bargain for the first year or two, to catch you, and then a much higher rate when your subscription renews automatically, as a “convenience” to you. More important, magazines, even the best ones, are either repetitive (sorry, Oprah), or relentless (New Yorker, I’m talking to you). Or both. Who has the time to read them all? And who, in this apartment, has the time to read them all when there is a cat to admire, Shakespeare on the shelf, music in my head, and friends to talk to? Real life, compassionate, aware, loving, curious friends?
Which brings me to another concern: The Vortex. Our minds are wired to look at the newest information. This can keep us both alive – Look out! There’s a snake! Move fast! A tree is falling! – and breeding – wow! now THERE”S a man!. This also makes us the perfect targets for Facebook and Twitter addiction, because the feeds keep updating. I find I am reading about someone I barely know doing something I don’t care about (so glad you’re having coffee for your hangover, my fb friend). It’s the latest, so it’s the loudest. Though it is easy to decide to stay away, actually doing that requires overriding millions of years of evolutionary development. But just as I am trying to do that, here comes another update, and it sucks me back in, on the off-chance that I need to know this new bit of information.
The Vortex substitutes the watching of life for living of life. It affected me years ago, through television, and so I got rid of my TV. Since then I have been encouraged (often!) to re-engage the box, and I haven’t yet done so. Perhaps when a cable company allows me to choose and pay for only the stations I want (I want my BBC, period). The result of this mode of living is that I am an alien. Those who watch a lot of telly probably don’t realize that they talk more about that than about anything else. They talk more about the characters on shows than about the people they actually know. I notice it because, when I have to ask who they are talking about, they are astounded by my ignorance.
But I watched a lot of TV in my past. Many friends have been made to endure my recall of theme songs and jingles from the 60s. In 1978, when I had the car accident that forced me out of the music business for a couple of years, I had extremely good medical care from Dr. Alvin Mulne, and all the superb staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Burbank, CA. I also had Jamie Sommers, The Bionic Woman, on daily reruns, and that show played an important part in my healing, too. I had been surprised to find that, thanks to bad management, I was rather spectacularly underinsured, and the daily “meditation” and visualization of her speed and strength and acute hearing was almost the only post-op therapy I had. We really do have the technnology, built-in, in mind and spirit.
Today I am living in a cable-free, magazine-free, internet-free apartment. Some of this may may well change. It's inconvenient. To publish this post, I have to walk down the hill to the library with my laptop on my back, and then walk back up. It's raining. But once I am home again, the mental silence – because I can't check Facebook – is deep and fruitful. The payoff's been really big. Clearer ideas. Sharper awareness when I am out, quieter thoughts when I stay in. Intuition's more insistent. Prolific dreaming. Prayer. I feel more present to Presence.
So far, so good.