Taming the beast

Most of the time the lock and key of my Facebook account dangles on a pewter chain around someone else’s throat. Since I spent hours tweaking font types and comment back-and-forth exchanges on MySpace as a high school sophomore, I’ve realized that social networking’s tug is as loathsome as any riptide. (Once you are ashamed to admit to your parents how much of your total computer usage is devoted to bolstering friendships online, it may be time to tone it down a bit.) To bulwark myself against these tendencies and work in the interests of my GPA and act as a steward of God’s time of course, since joining Facebook and coming to college, on several occasions I’ve relinquished control of my account to a friend.

I even went a step further this past spring. After realizing that I could outwit my former system—having a friend change my password by circumnavigating and clicking the button for forgotten password, I instructed a friend to create a new email address, placed that under his personal password connection and then made that my primary email account. Good bye Facebook. Hello life free of vicariously living through a machine.

As tedious as the previous paragraphs may be, the point of explaining the intense regulation of the internet is actually to highlight how little I am able to manage any other time I spend in the folds of the web, the lands of the NY Times, ESPN, and anywhere else where savvy and snarky writing may be. Sure, little of my time is spent these days doing anything remotely social. Only one of the 18 individuals or entities I follow on Twitter is with someone I’ve actually had a conversation. Yet, I compulsively check the site, gauging the pulse of the Giants’ beat writers and springing into glee the moment that they’ve retweeted me. (Yes, they have.)

But, so many days I find myself maxed out on Economist and New York Times articles, perusing the LA Times and trying to make sense out of the latest Grantland smattering of how-Ichiro-helped-me-understand-what-it-meant-or-didn’t-mean-to-be-American. I suck up commentary on the plight of microfinance gone wrong, arguments that Christians ought not to flee medical marijuana and Andrew Baggerly’s descriptions of heartwarming events from the Giants locker room.

Sure, I’m not addicted to Farmville. I’m sure somewhere around, there’s someone that would pat me on the back for resisting the urges of the virtual city. Maybe it’s only because Facebook is the only way I can access these diversions. Maybe it’s because I do have an obsession, albeit with avalanches of information and albeit with articles.

Articles are not books. Articles do not require tenacity. Articles do not necessitate staying power. They offer 900 words on gender roles and raising children but they do not extrapolate on the sociological or anthropological theory that were fundamental in altering just how our culture judged these trends. Any argument they serve over on a silver plate is usually characterized by a void that books might fill because books offer depth and depth is rarely characterized by 900 words.

Articles also transform me into a consumer. I slurp up the news and opinions and commentaries like I used to buy summer, floral-print dresses (used to?) and like some kindergartners collected fluorescent colored sillybandz, while simultaneously struggle to ever focus my attention on any one subject long enough to write 600 words a week. I turn into a ravaging machine, always gleaning others’ ideas and points of view and only rarely risking my own beyond my Twitter account or a select comment pages.

But blogging, like sustained blogging about one topic and doing all the appropriate research or disciplined mental training, is pushed away too often in the interest.

Oh for the tenacity and mental fortitude to tame this loathsome beast.


Mornings in Kansas

(Recounting the morning of June 3 of my roadtrip.)

To get to Monument Rocks we were forced to turn off the main highway three times. After overshooting our destination by 10 miles, Cassie parked the Subaru at the minimart of a rusty gas station and inquired of a man who most assuredly knew more about Kansas that we might, where the turnoff might stand.

She squeezed the car door open, infusing the road-trip stupor with a bit of the vitality of Midwest air and simultaneously declared the attendant nice and our decision wrong.

We u-turned Grinnell, bolted the opposite direction and after exiting the highway, plunged onto a slightly dustier two-laner heading South. We had passed a joint resolution on the first day of our trip declaring our disdain for talkative, newfangled devices that spat out distances and freeway exits and that numbed the brain’s sense of location. The consequence of this vehicle legislation was the over-sized atlas that my left hand gripped as my right hand traced the thick, bold lines that would lead us to our destination.

We cherished our willful revile of modern comfort and toasted to our map-reading capabilities and memorization of the names of major thoroughfares as we roasted our bums in the car and let our eyes relax on the monotony of hills or oaks or cornfields. After a bit, we went left at another sign, right at the next and then after many miles of the comfort of paved roads we were astonished to hear gravel berate the tires.

Although the crackling sound made suspicion easy, the brash and ostentatious Monument Rocks that startled the green fields around them, did not. After winding around confusedly and then assuredly, Cassie determinedly parked the car and we emerged at the park. With the time change, it was late morning and our clothes were already sticky against our backs and dust came up when trudged to the site that we hoped was not affixing itself to us. Cassie pointed the camera in various ways, pleased that the strange edges of the rocks easily lent themselves to attractive and interesting shots.

I observed the swallows diving in and out of their nests which had settled in clusters and which clung to the rocks as the birds fluttered to and from them. I started when a swallow dove over my hand and its business fell to on my open palm as I posed for Cassie but my joy for these birds’ energy did not falter and later I filmed the dozens of them bursting about.

It was easy to be seized by lethargy in the encompassing humidity and I found these rapid bursts of movement challenging me to pull myself away from the status quo of sitting down.

In flimsy sandals, Cassie and I pulled ourselves to the summit of the Monument Rocks and pranced about the unguarded surfaces. She refused to flagrantly approach anything that may have defied her luck, but filmed me when I unsuccessfully attempted to test mine.

We were sweatier when we returned to the car. We had been racing the 10-second camera self-timer for a memorable picture of the two of us with a looming background of the monoliths. We had both failed on several attempts and when we flung open the car doors, pulled them fast in shut, and pulled out, we realized that we had left One Hundred Years of Solitude and The Woman in White wedged under the plastic on the blazing steel roof, and laughed.