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The Olden Days

February 11, 2011
Spyhouse Coffee
Hennepin Ave.

I have been here for over 20 minutes, and my feet are still cold.  Why?  I was sitting in my truck talking to my aunt on my cellphone for a half hour, microwaving my brain.  Meanwhile, the cold that won’t go away crept into the floorboards of the truck and soaked into my feet.

I am officially sick of cold weather.  Even the beauty of skiing can’t beckon me.


As always, after teaching a wonderful class this morning at South, I began to think about this blog, what I would write.  I never know until I get here.  I have been thinking and talking a lot about technology’s kidnapping of the human race, turning us into androids.  I know it sounds fanatical, and I know I’m going to sound like I’m 80, but…

When I was a kid, the phone was stuck to the end of the cabinets in our orange-striped kitchen.  If the phone rang, we had to stand within eight feet of it.  I remember my mom talking on the phone and walking back and forth on her tippy toes (she was 5’2″ and always on her tippy toes), the cord stretching and coiling, stretching and coiling.

When I was a kid, there was still a busy signal if we were on the phone.  I remember the advent of call-waiting, and then the advent of caller ID.  Eureka!  I even remember driving in my friend Sarah’s dad’s car, and he had a mobile phone–a large, heavy rectangular box that had bad reception–and calling my parents all excited because I was calling from a car!

When I was a kid, I walked along Minnehaha creek for hours, and sat up in my room listening to UB40 and taping Duran Duran posters to my walls.  When I was a kid I left my house, the screen door banging behind me, and was gone the whole day to the park, to the creek, to my friend Meghan’s house to eat all of the food in her cabinets, to Don’s Superette and then back to the park to eat my bag of candy while sitting on the swings.

I remember being bored.  I remember having nothing to do but just sitting or walking around my neighborhood.  I remember biking all day long around the lakes, blaring my walkman.  I remember people who were my age now telling me that if I kept listening to that damn thing, I would be deaf by the time I was their age.  They were right.

(Here’s when I sound like I’m 80): When I see kids these days, I see them with their attention pinpointed onto a little screen.  They break up with boyfriends and girlfriends via text.  Instead of calling names or planning a mini-rumble after school, kids these days can ruin lives in a single sentence delivered to a huge tech-audience.

I feel sorry for Oliver and Lucy, coming up in this virtual world that is far bigger than the actual world.  I wonder how I can protect them from bullying, from predators, from losing the simple and sensory things of life that make memories and deepen our connection to others and the natural world.

I listened to myself say to a friend, “Boredom is the mother of invention,” and realized how true it is!  We are so funny, racing to our yoga and meditation classes to be “mindful,” and then getting back home to sit and dream into the bright screen of Facebook. Yet, we barely have time to get together and shoot the breeze.  Even the saying, “shoot the breeze,” is becoming archaic.

Hey.  I live in a glass house, so I’m not throwing stones.  I’m just saying.  And since part of my vocation is provoking thought, I am compelled to share my inner dialogue about this issue that is so big and so unregulated.  I believe we as adults need to reign this thing in and draw some boundaries, not only for ourselves, but for our children.  I know one thing I can do: turn the phone off when I am spending time with my children and family.  Especially since what we do is what we teach.

Right before I began writing this, I opened my email and read the quote of the day from Tiny Bhudda.  I find it awfully serendipitous in light of what I was planning to write about:

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another–and
ourselves.” -Jack Kornfield

So here’s your writing exercise (or thought-exercise): How much time of your day are you plugged in (not including work)?  How much time do you spend alone, walking or cooking or doing art or writing or just having a cup of tea and sitting?  What do you think would happen to your life if you gave yourself one hour of “screen time,” and then unplugged for the remainder of your non-working day?

I’m curious.  We turned off the comment thingy because of all of the spam I was receiving.  But I would love to hear from you if you want to send and email and let me know how you manage the technological craze.

Until then, peace and tranquility to you and yours.

Love, Janna.

  1. The UB40 song “Cherry O Baby” immediately brings me back to your parent’s house in your little attic bedroom with green carpet and wood paneling. At the time we were paralyzed with adolscent angst – yet I am SOOOO wistful for those days! Boredom totally breeds creativity.


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