Thoughts on Solitude Sundays Vol. 2

24 01 2018

Being Alone Doesn’t Mean You’re Lonely…

and other likeminded cliches on Solitude

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January 21st marked my third Solitude Sunday of the year. Inspired by The Stranger in the Woods: The Extraordinary Tale of the Last True Hermit by Michael Finkel I’ve been attempting alone-time at least once a week since finishing the book.

The main point of the exercise in solitude is to turn off my phone and computer for an entire day and try to turn inward instead.

In other words, I am Krystal, unplugged.

I have yet to experience a true day of solitude though as I live with roommates and also have woken up to another person in my bed on more than one Sunday morning.

So, I’ve had to redefine these Sundays of Solitude since I am not be able to be truly alone unless some rich person asked me to house-sit for them while they’re away for a weekend or I went out and camped in the middle of nowhere by myself (which I won’t do until the spring due to the fact that I enjoy feeling warmth in my fingers and toes).

What I’ve learned though is that the addiction is real.

Separating myself from my phone has been painful.

I can’t count the times I have looked for it while in one room or the other only to remember I had shut it off and hid it in a drawer.

I haven’t lost track of time during any of these Sundays of Solitude, but instead I often have had no idea what time it was at all.  It turns out that most homes, including ours, have a lot less working clocks in them these days.

I tell time by looking out my window. It gets dark and I think “finally I can go to bed,” then I walk into the kitchen and the one working clock that’s on our oven informs me it’s only 5.30 p.m. Could this be right? I have often found myself saying outloud to no one. This oven clock was accurate yesterday, so why wouldn’t it be today? It’s at that moment that I experience the crushing realization that I have an entire night ahead of entertaining myself.

I believe that was the biggest revelation this last Sunday.

When you disconnect from the outside world and have to focus instead of what’s around you, it feels as though you gain time.

Of course that’s not necessarily how time works; we don’t gain or lose it, time just is. Though I will say that without constantly scrolling through newsfeeds or texting friends all day, it often feels like I’m getting time back; I can recognize it moving at a pace that seems reasonable, seems like it used to seem back in the days of my youth when I lived out in the country in the middle of nowhere Kansas, prior to having access to the internet (it still barely works out there to this day).

Of course, this can feel boring at the same time that it feels refreshing. It can feel lonely at the same time as it feels liberating. It’s not for everyone. I’m not sure if I’d even recommend it.

What it’s done for me though is force me to slow down.

It’s allowed me to catch up.

Solitude Sunday has reminded me that interesting things are happening within just as much as they’re happening without. It’s made my return to technology feel less important. That scrolling through Instagram and Facebook aren’t necessarily wastes of time, but that I could do it less and it still mean just as much.

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I’d like to explore something that could be equally interesting in the future, that is, I’d like to unplug with another person. I know that there’s still plenty to understand and dive into deeper with my own internal landscape, but I also am liking the idea of two people disconnecting from everyone else and instead taking the time to get to know each other without the distraction of our individual networks–because there is more to us than who we follow.

If you’re down to unplug with me some upcoming Sunday (and in Denver), send me a message (I get the humor in using technology to disconnect from technology in the future, but sometimes it’s the best way to get where we need to be).

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If a computer could determine the love of your life, would you want to know?

15 01 2018

In 2009, an underrated rom-com called TiMER was released. In this film, people elect to be implanted with a timing device that counts down to the second when they will meet their soulmate. The marketing tagline for the service was “Take the guesswork out of love.” At one point the main character Emma Caulfield Ford (of Buffy fame), says to her boyfriend of one month outside the TiMER offices, “What’s the point in continuing without a guarantee?” Then of course, she’s implanted and her timer is blank, which means her soulmate has yet to be implanted or could possibly not exist.

This year in the 4th season of Black Mirror, Episode 4, “Hang the DJ,” we meet Frank and Amy, two people who have signed up for an immersive experience to find “the one;” a program that has a 99.8% success rate. In this alternative universe, a computer uses its algorithm to collect data consistently in order to determine who belongs with each other by analyzing their every thought, action, experience, feelings. They’re set up with one person at a time, each date gets exactly that, a date in which the relationship will end. They are required to only spend that length of time together, 36 hours, 9 months, 1 year, etc. whether they like that person or not (because everything happens for a reason).

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In both of these storylines, people know in advance whether they are with the love of their lives or not. Not to give it all away, but it seems like only through the rebellion of not-knowing do any of them find what they think they’ve been looking for.

Is that what love takes? Rebellion against society’s norms? Could it even be considered “society’s norms,” when really it’s just that no one likes being told what to do, particularly when it comes to who they’re going to love (see pretty much every work of literature, poetry, film that exists).

Which is partly why the Okcupid algorithm doesn’t really work (and was supposedly all arbitrary anyway) but anyone who is supposedly a 99% match is not going to match well, because we couldn’t possibly believe that a computer could tell us what’s real more so than our own minds and hearts–so we all look for signs that the computer is wrong, and find them because humans are naturally all flawed in some shape or form.

While watching the Black Mirror episode I couldn’t help but think that having a time-stamp on the relationship would actually be rather refreshing. Of course, I have done these types of relationships before, gotten into things I knew would end because the other person was moving or what have you. It was never heartbreaking because the terms were clear from the start.

Most relationships do end; so is it so wrong to know when that end will happen? How does it change your mindset knowing? Could it not potentially allow you the opportunity to make the most of your time together, whether it’s a day or 5 years? Would you want to know if you could?

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What about when it comes to your “soulmate”? Could a computer ever have the capability to actually determine that? At some point, someone somewhere would have to confirm that the concept of the ‘soulmate’ indeed is true and exists and not only that, but it can be found essentially through math , and the finding can be easily done to make a profit.

Yet, by knowing, do we put up a wall, do we not put our whole hearts into relationships when we know that it doesn’t matter, that it will not last? And is that why people who are in love have to rebel because if they don’t, it’s not truly love?

As Tom Robbins says:
“Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.”

In the end, the security of love never exists, knowing that a computer thinks you’re right for each other doesn’t make it right, only you know, and only time can tell.





Finding Solitude Within the Noise: Week 1.

8 01 2018

January Goal: Talk to People Less, Find Self More

solitude

Lone tree, hometown, Kansas, 2013.

After reading The Stranger in the Woods, I have been diving deeper into concepts of solitude discussed throughout the book.

In it, Michael Finkel writes:

“People who live in cities experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones. These hormones, especially cortisol, increase one’s blood pressure, contributing to heart disease and cellular damage. Noise harms your body and boils your brain. The word “noise” is derived from the Latin word “nausea.” (pg 113)

This stuck with me. I live in Denver and though it’s not as bustling and loud as some places like New York or LA, I am in the heart of the city where there is constant traffic and construction projects. In fact, they’ve been building a new house across the street from me for the last several months, and let me tell you, jackhammering at all hours of the day is definitely nausea-inducing.

There was a moment in the book when the author reflected on how long he had ever gone without talking to a single other person, including texts and phone calls. His was half a day. Mine? I couldn’t even think of a time. Had there ever been a time when I actually experienced ‘solitude’? Maybe once for a day in high school when my parents were gone before I had a cell phone or working internet and I decided to stay home “sick” from school, but that’s not a solid memory, just a thing that may or may not have happened.

Because I am so drawn to these ideas of quiet and because I can’t really leave everything behind and run away to the middle of nowhere to live in a tent (for one, I wouldn’t survive). I decided to attempt Solitude Sundays.

Through January, every Sunday (starting Saturday night before I go to bed) I am turning off my phone and my computer and I am spending the entire day alone.

It’s impossible to escape all of the noise, particularly when one has roommates, but cutting off technology at least gets me halfway there.

Baby stepping toward solitude.

Here are my thoughts from Week 1 of Solitude Sundays.

I went to bed early for a change on Saturday night shutting off my phone around 11:30 pm (this is early for me on a Saturday as I often stay up until 3-4 a.m. drunk socializing like an asshole).

I did not set an alarm.

I woke around 10 a.m.

Of course, one of the first things I normally do when I wake up is to look at my phone to see how popular I am based on how many people sent me texts and memes and shit (usually not very) but my phone was turned off and hidden from me.

Separating from my phone was much more difficult than I thought it would be. I knew I was addicted, but I didn’t know how bad it was until it was no longer there. It is my crutch. If I leave a room, even for a minute, I come back and check it immediately just in case I may have missed something or to see the time or to check the weather or to get on Instagram to depress myself by looking at how much fun everyone else seems to be having.

I had to rely on looking at a clock (shocking), stepping outside for a second to see how cold it was (wow!), looking within myself for entertainment or lack thereof (gee whiz!).

What did I end up doing all day? Not scrolling through Tinder I’ll tell you that.

I read.

I read a fuck ton of words.

I read short stories by George Saunders. I started Ape & Essence by Aldous Huxley. I went through my stack of magazines and separated everything I had read, didn’t want to read, wanted to read. I finished several Glamours. I read half of a New Yorker.

I re-read the entire introduction and section 1 of a book on Hedgewitchery.

I may or may not have done the first rite from that book.

I meditated.

I drank a cup of coffee.

I took out the recycling.

I planted herbs into a flower pot.

I finally raked the lawn.

I did nothing.

I longed to do more.

I had all these thoughts about the things I wanted to do with my phone, with my computer; ideas I wanted to look up, people I wanted to talk to. I even longed to call my mother to tell her how difficult it was to not talk to anyone all day.

I wrote down everything I wanted to do with the technology I chose to hide from myself onto a piece of paper so I could do them later if I deemed them worthy.

It was the smartest move I could make in that regard.

I journaled about my feelings (or lack thereof).

I went for a run. I took a bath. I ate some fancyass healthy food that involved quinoa and kale and tofu. My roommate came into the room and I had to say hello, which ruined the entire thing.

I didn’t let her get me down.

I stared out the window.

There were times of tremendous struggle. Times when I thought, “well, what if I just turn my phone on for a minute?”

I persevered.

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By the end of the time, I actually became anxious. I thought about how lovely it was to not have to talk to anyone and how the following day (today) I would have to start talking to people again. I begin to wonder how many days I could actually go before I went crazy (my guess is 11 days).

I wouldn’t necessarily call what I did “practicing solitude.” But it feels like a good step in that direction. My goal for next Sunday is to do less. I want to dive in deep to the inner self, see what I’ve been missing that’s been with me the entire time.

Alone?

Nah.

Not when I have myself.

P.S. I woke up, turned on my phone. I had missed three texts. One from a friend who called me “lame” for turning my phone off. And two from some fuckboy asking me to “69.” 

In other words, I didn’t miss anything (which makes me glad and sad at the same time).





Finding My Way Back to Me

7 12 2017

Kill the writer. Remove the block.

I decided I was going to become a writer when I was 13. My grandfather had just died, my great-grandmother had just died, and my dog had been hit by a car–and died. Writing was the only thing that helped relieve some of the pain. If I wrote it down, it would go away, it would be over there in the notebook instead of inside me. I could revisit the ideas if I wanted but I no longer owned them, the notebook did.

I’m not sure what happened, but at some point in the last couple of months, I’ve lost it. I’ve lost my desire to write. I’ve lost myself.

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Every day I look at my computer and I think how I should post a tweet or a Facebook update. I should express my point of view. I should return to the world I know so well. Yet, I freeze. I sit for hours staring, saddened by the turn of events that continue to happen every day on this earth; I feel paralyzed. What could my thoughts actually do to help any of them? Who am I in the greater scheme of things?

I am just like everyone else.

We are all the same.

We are all different.

My voice, just another sound shooting through the airwaves, internet waves, waving at no one in particular, hoping at least someone hears me, sees me, waves back. A thin line of connectivity. The string that ties me to humanity. If I cut it, I’ll lose myself.

Maybe it’s time for that self to go.

Kill the parts I no longer need.

Rise above the mainstream machine.

Find more of me as I remove the layers that others have glossed, painted, laid over me.
A product of my generation. Of this time. Of the before and the after.

The math that doesn’t add up.

The apathy from never being good enough.

The ego of always being better than.

Never one or the other, always neutral with the weight of experience pushing one up more than the other.

Words come out, but do we ever really say anything?





Philosophy Friday: Self-Regulating through Social Media.

22 03 2013

Thoughts on the Panopticon & Computers.

Are our computers the new “panopticon” regulating our behavior through self-regulation?

Have we gone so far as to not even need an “institution” to keep us docile?

Through social media we are creating a two-way mirror of judgment and individual normalization. Social media is the new internalized surveillance.

Foucault

The “panopticon” is basically an “all-seeing” observation tower that allows guards to constantly have prisoners under observation. Prisoners never know when they are being watched, thus they start supervising their own thoughts and behaviors and as Foucault says, a prisoner becomes the “principle of his own subjection.”

But now, we are in control of the (online) observation and we still allow said observations to occur. Perhaps it’s because we have all grown up in the world of the panopticon—it subtle or not so subtle—being the concept for how most major institutions function—prisons, schools, hospitals, key corporations etc. so we become so engrained with self-monitoring that we now purposely do it as part of our daily ritual.

We are creating an online persona to be monitored and though we may not track all of our behaviors from reality to the web, they still are connected—we are cyborgs at least in regards to our social lives. Our day-to-day is entwined with computer technology that it would be almost impossible to separate it at this point.

I am not saying that the weaving of our natural and technological lives is a bad thing, but I am suggesting that there is a power dynamic here that we might be overlooking. Are we at a point beyond the need to be controlled by some sort of hierarchy because we are actually controlling ourselves? There are few individual people who actually exercise power over a large population and maybe it’s because computers are doing it for us, in that we are maintaining our own subordination through self-regulating our personas online. We are keeping each other in check in an almost passive-aggressive sort of way.

Anyway, I feel like I’m on to something here but haven’t quite gotten there all the way. I would love other people’s opinions on the matter.