Article in today's NYTimes about how people head for their internet connections to the outside world first thing in the morning. Kids sleep with their phones in hand. Of course, this is deplored as taking us away from the traditional morning activities of a certain privileged demographic (us), like walking the dog or helping the kids find their homework. Yes, I think the dog should be walked. I also think there's a certain Luddite resistance to change.
If I tell you I remember when television came in, you will think I am 66 11/12 years old, and so last century. I try to think of it as accumulated wisdom, or at least experience. Television. We were all fascinated by it, stunned by the availability of entertainment. Until then I had been lucky to go to the local movies once a week, where I would patiently sit through an entire double feature, even cowboy movies. They were movies. I loved them.
I had a girlfriend whose household had the magic box, and she and I used to watch all the sitcoms we possibly could. It all pleased us, though it was aimed at adults, and I suppose we didn't understand most of what went on. We liked Topper, and My Favorite Bachelor. I knew a kid who actually sat and watched test patterns, waiting for the programming to start. Parents, surly about the whole phenomenon ("Radio was good enough for me"), became fixated on watching the evening news with Walter Cronkite. Then, hearing other grownups talk about actually indulging in TV, my own parents allowed themselves to watch Sid Caesar and the Ed Sullivan show. Thus I got to see the American debut of an English singing sensation.
I have a point here and I am wandering toward it as you can when you have no editors to please. It is this - let us stop berating email and texting and Facebook and admit it - we like this stuff. What's wrong with that? A Zen Teacher I used to work with had a way of saying things that struck home for me. In one talk he referred to simple desires, and he shocked some earnest vegetarians by saying, "If you want a Big Mac, go ahead and have one, and enjoy it. Be with it all the way." The idea was, it doesn't have to be a big thing.
Doesn't it sometimes seem like we spend our lives resisting ourselves? There are impulses well worth resisting, arson, infidelity, just one cigarette, but that doesn't mean goodness is purchased through self-denial. Sometimes I think about the string of stupid diets I've been on in my life, thinking that being slimmer or abstractly "healthier" would translate into happiness. It didn't.
I hate thinking about that self-denial. I mean, one of these diets, prescribed by an alternative MD, had me off all gluten, dairy, and sugar. You could hardly find gluten-free products at the time. When this doctor intuited that I should stop eating potatoes and drinking water, I finally said No. But I had wasted months concocting unpleasant milkshakes with all sorts of stuff in them. I regret that now that my kidneys are wearing out, because I really do have to follow a diet, no choice. The experience of the last years confirms the medical wisdom: limit potassium, phosphates, protein and, God help me, salt. I can't binge on this diet. Eating the wrong things overloads my poor kidneys, and I get a major congestion headache or an episode of arrythmia, or lie awake all night feeling the ribs I treated myself to because it was my birthday.
There actually is more to life than food, that's just one example. In fact, we Americans obviously do indulge too much in food, mindlessly, I think. The real thing is to become intimate with yourself and your cravings. Does this circle me back to the fact that I, too, get up, make coffee, and check my e-mail? Yes. Facebook, yes. Maybe someone else is online at 5:00 a.m.
I can make a logical argument for all this internet connection, but it really isn't about logic - it's about enjoying what we decide to do. This can be a challenge when it comes to eating that Big Mac, which I did not long ago. In reality, it is precooked and never warm enough. But eating it reminded me of these realities, and stopped the craving for that ideal Big Mac they advertise, at least for a while.