The Agalawatte house, including the one verandah with Internet reception.
I spent Avurudu weekend away from tech as much as possible. It’s not very possible. At my Achchi’s house there’s only phone reception in one corner of the verandah, but now there’s satellite TV. I carry an analog looking camera, but it’s still digital, and cousins still want to look. I took the iPad to perhaps write or draw, but they want to play Angry Birds. Meanwhile the aunts and uncles want to know how to setup Bluetooth on their phones. Not that it’s just my relatives, I was damn sure in that corner of the verandah, checking my Facebook messages. It’s not easy to get away, least of all from myself.
I remember, from my childhood, being bored. That rarely happens anymore. Like Clay Shirky says:
when the Internet came along it was like, “That’s it for being bored! Thank God! You’re awake at four in the morning? So are thousands of other people!”
It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do. (How We Will Read)
When I was younger there was nothing to do at Achchi’s house but sleep or eat (delicious food). I used to go through the bug worried cupboards, finding 1960s era Readers Digests and Life Magazines, reading through the self-assured prose of an ignorant age – about Joe’s Hypothalamus, the Vietnam War – and marvel at the advertising – PanAm, Thai Airways, vacuum cleaners, fridges, stoves. They seemed to pay more attention to copy back then. Even the ads were usually one photo, headline, and text. There weren’t any QR codes or huge, glossy images. It was actually a sales pitch.
There were some old books around. A young novice monk used to come by and we’d play cricket, losing the ball in the paddy fields, somehow marching to the distant town to buy another one. There wasn’t much to do. I was bored.
That’s what I did when I was bored. I read a bunch of stuff I wasn’t necessarily interested in, but which turned out to be interesting. Growing up in America, this included most of the books in my parents house. It also meant listening to albums of music, including the tracks that weren’t singles, over and over until I got bored of certain songs and liked others, ones I hadn’t liked before. I think part of that experience is gone.
Now if I don’t like a song within 10 seconds, I change it. I read the books I choose to, or what I’m given as gifts. If I want to idle some time I’ll read the news, or short updates from my friends. On the whole I probably read more than I used to. I’m not saying this is necessarily bad.
It’s just that sometimes I want to chill. I don’t want to worry about whether my stuff is charged or if my traffic is down or if I need to update my software or my blog or Facebook or my worldview or anything at all. Sometimes I just want to wake up, eat, sleep, have a well bath, eat, sleep, read, sleep, etc, repeat. It’s not as easy as it used to be.