In Praise of Being Disconnected

A spectacular web in our Beauty bush.

Perhaps the saddest accolade of our modern faith is this: “Our world is more interconnected than ever before.” It’s a statement as bold on the first read as it is meaningless on the second, and one that is not only sad but also somewhat horrifying upon further examination.

So, exactly what is “more” interconnected, and why are we celebrating?

Are we more connected to our natural world in the early 21st century than, say, the early 19th? Is the screen shot of a desert on Windows 10 a more authentic form of experiencing the world’s beauty? Does being jetted to an ecotourism rainforest holiday (with spa) connect us more deeply to the planet than the act of sitting alone under a tree in the local park for an afternoon? Are we truly more connected to each other, as we shuffle to our cars, to our work, to our homes, to our beds?

Is it social media that brings us to be interconnected with our thousands of “friends”? That brings us pictures of intimate dinners, cute cats, clever memes? Can we even begin to measure a hundred Facebook likes against the satisfaction of receiving one handwritten missive from a longtime friend, and years later, discovering her letter of reply, tucked into an old copy of Tartt’s The Secret History? No doubt, for many, racking up likes is a bridge from loneliness; certainly, signing on to social media makes it easier to “connect” than knocking on a neighbor’s door and chatting about the family and the weather.

Perhaps it is through the economy —whose institution has sacrificed the local web of livelihoods for the fragile gratitude of a global supply chain — that we’re more interconnected. Or maybe it is to our fellow species that we have become more connected, although not the 50 percent of them projected to be extinct by mid-century. (It must count for something that they are preserved for eternity on select Nova episodes.)

Oh, what a tangled web we weave/When first we practice to deceive!  

I am ensnared now by threads of deception, many that I have spun myself. If I could but seize the axe and sever these cords, I’d return to a world that wasn’t interconnected. A hypothetical “disconnected” world in which I knew, really knew, my family, my neighbors, my community, this valley, this land. A world in which I experienced the view of my fields from under a favorite tree, and never on a glowing screen. Detached, cut loose and drifting, away from this horror show of a failed civic discourse. Into a world in which misunderstanding was solved with respectful discussion and a handshake; communications with family were handwritten instead of texted, in which relatives would come upon my friend’s letter, tucked away in a book, when going through my estate.

Where, standing in the barnyard, I would proclaim, “I didn’t retreat, I attacked,” to the listening crows and the steaming compost bin. And then sit on the porch, with you, in companionable silence, as together we tore apart these threads.

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Reading this weekend: Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (Modern Library anthology). And, scaring myself silly with Victorian ghost stories.

10 thoughts on “In Praise of Being Disconnected

  1. Is this in praise of something or against its inverse? I think the latter. So electronic interconnectivity has smuggled in a barely sensed alienation from the natural world and each other. Who could have possibly anticipated such a betrayal by our own technologies? Lots of folks, as it happens. But the lesson is lost of those of us whose attention is riveted on the virtual world displayed on our devices. Too bad that the act of defiance, the refusal to succumb to easy charms, is misunderstood by those all too easily seduced as a failure to get with the times.

    • Yep, one only has to witness the abuse hurled at the Amish, to illustrate your point. It seems that a fundamental assumption of advocates of new technologies is that a specific technology has a shared value system, an ideology (theirs). Amazement results when it is “misused”.

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  3. Brian,
    My wife and I have shared the link to your blog to our friends with the instruction to read, savor, and enjoy. We both thoroughly enjoy your writing and am hopeful that more folks are able to do the same. That may not be your wish, but we truly believe you have multiple gifts, one of which is your writing. We look forward to the day when we can put your collected writings on our bookshelf for enjoyment in the years ahead.

    We also enjoy the fruits of your labor on the farm as well. What better way to spend an evening than to dine on some delicious beef, lamb, or pork raised the way it should be, then reflecting with a piece of provoking writing in the easy chair.

    The world needs more South Roane Agrarian.

    Warm regards,
    Danl

    • Danl,
      What writer would object to such words or having his work shared. Makes me all fuzzy to hear it. Seriously, thanks for the kind comments. Hope all is well. And, that your meat supply holds out for the winter months.
      My best,
      Brian

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  5. I just learned something. Something I could have learned a lot earlier:
    Never pour out the last drops from the soup pot (luckily, I didn’t). If you’re growing and washing your own vegetables, chances are they’ll contain all the sand you, unlike the machine you’ve replaced, have missed.

    learning things
    both great and tall
    just grit your teeth
    with grit and all

Any thoughts or questions?