There was a time when life was marked by birth, and death, and graduations. It was weddings and water broken and tassle-caps tossed and funerals. It was conversations over shared soup on Saturday nights, and plans for an epic camping trip. It was summers planting thousands of trees a day in Northern British Columbia and Alberta, where the night-sky-winds rubbed aurora over the canopy of stars as I shivered my way out of my tent to pee.
It was kayaking an inflatable raft at age seventeen down the Urubamba river on probably class-4 rapids where no one had ever kayaked before, without a cell phone or a sat phone, or any option other than to make it down to the oil-company airstrip for pickup in four days.
It was that first kiss, on a rock in the rain by a lake.
It was that first concert where everyone was dancing and many were singing along and there were no glowing lights held at the end of stiff-armed people more intent on keeping their stupidphones level than on actually flowing into the visceral beauty of live, right-here-now music.
It was badly-sung, off-key children's performances and potlucks afterwards, where mixed-plates went un-documented and food was just prepared, eaten, digested and excreted away from the prying eyes of millions.
But yesterday I saw my son at school across a sea of glowing screens.
I came home thinking about the world that once was and maybe now is gone forever and I sat alone, here, in my home where I am almost always alone.
And yes, I am I think a writer always more alone and more in silence than most, and more ground down-down-down under the weight of thoughts I've been carrying since before I can remember. Yes, I am a guy who'll think about the heat-death of the universe before I'll care about whether my meal's going cold, because I had another idea I just had to write down... but I'm starting to wonder if this digital click-click-click sickness is quite as inevitable as I've been coming to believe.
Did the Gray of Sadness sometimes sit damp-sodden on me even before all this - before I began to beat it back in spurts and starts with the dopamine-spikes of internet "likes?"
But what if that early Grayness was more the product of my deep-sinking mind trying to grow into productive adulthood in a world where most people I knew were obsessing about the latest from Ferrari, and the hottest possible person with whom they could get laid (and maybe cars and sex were their brain-spike philosophy)? What if I'm making it worse, day-by-day, by allowing myself to click-click-click around the internet, never giving more than a passing thought to what perhaps ought to be the Greatest Project of my Life: Learning to be Still?
Only in stillness and its attending silence can still, small voices be heard; and in a world where Powers and Principalities scream a crash-bang-boom cacophony over it all, what if the click-click-click of the internet is wiring me away from silence, into a flickering noise of activity that will hound me from neurosis to neurosis, all the way down to the grave?
What can I do?
I want to engage the world, and this-here-now is the world, as is.
I want to write for people where they live, and this click-click-click world is where a lot of them live... but can I? Can I really live, here, where my heart feels weighted with the urge to do what needs to be done to "grow an online presence?"
I've been writing less and less on this blog, lately, and I think this may be why. I think it might be sadness, and it might be the Voice of Stillness calling out to me - telling me to STOP. To rest into the silence. To fast, longer and with a more beatific calm, between forays into the click-click-click flash-zip-pow of something that no matter what the self-indulging, self-turning cluster-cuss claims, still feels more and more like seven billion people crammed into one, tiny room screaming "LOOK AT ME!"
You read these words and maybe you think, "Yes, Josh, Yes! That's me, too. That's how I feel, too! Finally... someone has finally seen me."
But I haven't. Not really. All I've seen is myself, reflected back from the screen in the black-fractions-of-seconds as I click-click-click away from here, from you, from Us.
And I'm growing oh-so tired.
I want more.