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While the bread rises

I was in a serous mood, having just read some thoughtful, intelligent writing, and so inspired, started writing this post. It was about how I have been kidding myself that there’s a Reality, after all, beyond subjective interpretation. That there are time, and space, and atoms, and biological and ecological imperatives, and even something above all that and both superior, higher, and, sadly corruptible at that higher level, resulting in detestable, shameful, manifestations of human free will, and fates worse than death! But that I would, by choice–faith, if you like—continue to believe inĀ  this Reality, or Truth, because I can’t think of any beliefs that I like better.

I took a break, noticed that my store of tomatoes and zucchini were growing, and decided to get on Facebook to ask a friend for that vegetable chowder recipe. Facebook, which I had abandoned over a year ago for reasons of principle as well as personal weakness. I set up an account again a few days ago, because I missed being in contact with some really old friends I couldn’t reach in any other way. Told myself I’d just get back on for a month or two, post a minimum of information, find friends enough to build a network, then say good bye and invite them all to try out MeWe, the private, no ad social network alternative I use.

I got sucked in. Yes, Facebook worked its magic, and soon I was clicking Send Friend Request on names of people I lived near, saw often, or was related to, instead of just my long lost. I started reading, remembering, laughing, deciding which old friends I still might have enough in common with, trying to remember which ones to avoid because they were always liking commercial links and posting photos of their meals, political and religious videos and news items, and rescued dogs. Or because there was am uncomfortable mutual memory I wasn’t ready to hurdle yet. A never ending list of “you may know” names got me scrolling, looking for familiar faces.

Then I came back to WordPress, and my words here appeared to be in a foreign language by comparison. Facebook by its very nature calls for cheery, impersonal, generally acceptable images and phrases, and anything unique, flavorful, provoking, personal must be shared with caution, for it’s bound to irritate, cause concern, or confuse some. Posting for the kind of group I’m now connected to is a strange and artificial act. Maybe the best strategy, besides saying almost nothing and sticking to personal messages, would be to mimic a certain farmer friend who posts gorgeous photos of farm life and landscapes, with a few of his children playing and working. Seems like everything else could irritate or worry the folks on my friend list. On the other hand, it could be a wonderful challenge, like a game with lots of rules, which necessitates strategic thinking and creativity. Would it be possible to get a hmm or a smile (a like?) from both the conservative Christian relative and the beer-happy former school buddy?

That’s enough of that. I think I’ll be okay. It’s good to be back. I haven’t sat down at the writing table much because I’ve switched to food growing mode. My garden is now overflowing with beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes, beets, berries, herbs, and some flowers, and everyone knows about that sort of thing–its just the turning of the seasons. Every year I get more in the swing of this, less likely to neglect the plantings, prunings, feedings and thinnings needed to keep everything growing strong, better at keeping up with the harvest and preserving so not much gets wasted. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that the youngest half of the family prefer microwave popcorn and quick snacks when there isn’t a full course meal on offer. For the rest I cook up or cut up two or three vegetables or put out salad ingredients, and now and then bake some muffins or bread. Every day I dump the kitchen compost pail, pick a big basket of beans and a few tomatoes, and stop to watch the hummingbirds zip over and rest on the wire fence, and admire the honeybees and other pollinators who sip at the ever blooming borage and crocosmia. The spring plantings are at the maximum, early summer plantings coming on, and the next phase of planting is here, the fall crops that will be set in the ground as soon as the summer crops are done. Chard, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cilantro, carrots, beets and salad greens will stand well into fall and some overwinter. Meanwhile it’s almost time to take a child or friend or tow to a hedgerow to gather wild blackberries, and after that I’ll pick my first crop of apples from the new trees i planted year before last, as well as the golden sauce apples and Italian plums from the older trees. I never get tired of this–it’s the same, but also new every time, and I can become more and more in tune, more in harmony, if am given and make the opportunity.

This Reality that I spoke of before has to do with this cycle, as reflected in the seasons, but also with something linear, a journey of learning, with an option of growth. In my education days, and before that studying biblical exegesis, it was represented by a spiral, each lesson or concept being revisited in turn at a higher level, with the general trend being cumulative and integrative learning. I turn away from that option of growth often enough, as if there is no purpose in this after all but to amuse myself and keep from letting my circumstances give me too much trouble. I certainly resist being shown the error of my ways by anyone close to me, preferring approved, and impersonal, sources. Still, I hope, I hope and try and try to yield, if that makes sense.

 

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Facebook adds meaning to your life. No, it’s just a rush of dopamine, after all.

I have a FB account again. Told myself I’d use it only to stay abreast of my friends and groups. Yet tonight I clicked, and clicked–added books to the “read” list (with dubious intentions–trying to impress?), made some friend requests, threw on a few photos, scrolled down the never-ending column of friends’ posts, wondering if I should defriend a few because, as much as I like them personally, I don’t need to hear from them this way–it makes no difference to me or them. If I could adjust the frequency of their updates, perhaps…

I feel the dope when I go to WordPress, too, but at least (after checking stats), there’s some work involved.

My kids are also addicted, in more ways, and I have to figure out how to help them. In a family meeting today, I confessed it’s new to us, this challenge of helping them use technology appropriately, monitoring them reasonably. Told them I don’t expect them to like being questioned, monitored or limited, but that it’s our responsibility, and we can’t assume they have enough wisdom to make the best choices on their own. For example, my husband and I told them that from now on their right to use the smart phones and internet service we bought them (and for the youngest, the family computer) was directly linked with their contribution to the family, in household work, in good relations among members, and in being responsible. That’s a start, but we need to come up with a more comprehensive plan for other ways to help our kids with this new opportunity, responsibility and source of temptation. There just no guidance for this in our otherwise excellent childrearing classics.

Last month I read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, by Nicholas Carr. My son’s karate sensei told me about it, and about what he’s observed about new students coming into the dojo. It takes longer, he said, than it used to, to teach them sustained focus, concentration, and rigor. This is consistent with the changes that are being effected on young people’s brains by computer games and the internet.

When I was growing up, my father was continually reminding us to turn out the light when we left the room, close the door when we went outside, and put on our seat belts before we drove off. There were good reasons for all these actions, but reason wasn’t enough to get up to habitually do them. We did finally get into the habit. My parents also purposely did not keep a television in the house, because they didn’t think it was a good, necessary tool in children’s development, and was likely to make us lazy in mind and body if we had the opportunity to get in the habit of watching. Why not at least teach us responsible use of television rather than eliminating it? They did not regard it as a necessary part of life or culture.

For my part, I do not have the option of denying the children smart phones–not because I believe they are a necessary part of life or culture (even though going without is even more counter-cultural that was being T.V.-free years ago)–it’s a Dad thing. I was brought up to be skeptical of social trends, and mass culture technology trends in particular. My husband grew up more mainstream than I and then went into software, and he’s so immersed in technology he leaves the burden of doubt on the naysayers. He sees cell phones as necessary for teens, and smart phones as only a small expense for the increased powers they offer.

My teens are plugged in way too much for my liking. I continually remind them to do something real, to move their bodies, talk or play with a real person, create a genuine physical object with hand tools. I hope I can somehow keep that creative, personal part of their thinking alive, and keep them in the habit, keep those neural pathways open, and at the same time create some advocates of the same in the next generation. Many times I despair of success–it takes a substantial adjustment, a withdrawal period, really, for them to adjust to the real world, let alone appreciate it and the family members in it. It’s hard for me to have patience with them about this, because I still prefer the real world, and want to stay that way. I want them to just wake up and say, like Carr did, “I missed my old brain.” I want them to take up painting, sewing, woodworking, cut, glue, pasting again. But these days, I have very little room to lay out materials for to entice them into creative projects. Hope that will change after this home redo is done. And I get that surge of fall energy and drive, and a kind of moral force and cheer that’s more winning than the tired, repetitive scolding and pessimism I tend to fall into in the summer heat. An endless supply of apps will never substitute for the real world, where there are real people and useful work to do.

 

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Escape from Facebook

I should have listened to my inner voice when I first visited Facebook and decided it wasn’t for me because of privacy issues. But I was excited by the prospect of connecting with old and new friends, and feeling some pressure to get signed up to I could access information that wasn’t coming in email any more. I gave in, signing off my rights to images, posts and information I might share on the site. It was so fun to post this and that, to get attention and “likes” to use the timeline to organize my whole life like an album, but for what? So I’m searchable? I do love the web, love the instant access to information, cross-referencing what I think I know, the chance to say something that people may find helpful or interesting, and another way to connect with people that matter to me, without interrupting them. But as for Facebook and such, I kept coming back to that agreement I’d made giving up privacy rights, as well as the issue of being barraged with ads. I tried getting rid of those, clicking “not interested,” but the flow was infinite. Every word and expression was used to find out my market niche.

I decided to look for a social site that would let me own my information and be in full control of privacy levels, then I’d switch. I tried to delete my account, but “close account” was the only option listed. Facebook informed me that they and my friends would miss me and that even though I was closing my account and my posts no longer visible, it would all still be there for me if I chose to come back. Eery.Then I accidentally reactivated my account by I clicking a link to find out more about 4-H in my area, and voila, Facebook welcomed me back. If it hadn’t been the end of a long day, I probably would have started scrolling down that page without any end, scanning updates, glassy-eyed. Finding out who’s sick, who’s cooking something yummy, and who likes Mitt Romney, whatever.

I decided to remove posts one by one, and was apparently successful at deleting a good number, except my birthday and any posts having to do with schools I’d attended or former employers. My son suggested replacing those with fictitious entities, but I didn’t want my friends to get false information. Finally through a web search I located the delete account link (which I could not see on Facebook itself) on the My Digital Life website. I completed the security check and Facebook promised my account would be deleted in two weeks, as long as I didn’t log on in the meantime. Good bye Facebook. If I can find a way to use the site without feeling so used myself, I might be back some day.

Reminds me of the weeds I pulled today–just had to keep following each root running underground, gently loosening the soil so as to get the whole without breaking it. Otherwise, as soon as it rains, up they pop and spread again.

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in Technology

 

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