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Combatting a Vast Expanse of Surfaces

Our Internet has become something different from what we ever imagined it to be: a feeding trough instead of a roundtable.
--Why we badly need a slower Internet (and fewer lists)

A few months ago, I wrote a piece for the Daily Dot about why we need the Slow Web, a movement towards creating less content with greater substance. After the piece was published yesterday, Brian Bailey, founder of Uncommon in Common, a site focused on cultivating a slower web, reached out to me with a few links to his site, including their wonderful genesis mission statement: A community of possibilities.

Let's pause for a second while you add that to your Instapaper.

I think it's interesting that I hadn't yet come across this site, and I think it's indicative of one of the major problems of the fast web; as I described it in an email to Brian: [the internet has become] a vast expanse of surfaces, too many points in need of excavation.

By creating more and more web and links and lists, we're reducing visibility. Fogging up the lens with content. A more carefully considered web would allow us to see bigger ideas more clearly, would encourage us to create these bigger ideas in the first place rather than just linking to the smaller ones. Part of this could be voluntarily stepping back from the internet for a while, resisting the urge to refresh refresh refresh all day. (Hey, I'm guilty of this too. Probably more guilty than most.) Another part is taking a pause before we share something on social networking sites.

For years J has been encouraging me to share less. That it's okay to just live without documenting. And in those moments when I find myself without my phone, staring at a beautiful sight, hearing something that's bigger than me, uncapturable, I try to remember to take a deep breath and hold on tightly to that moment in my mind. Where have all these precious, personal moments gone? Floating down the rapids of social media like sticks and leaves, to be crushed against the rocks.

This isn't to say I'm giving up Instagram or Twitter or Facebook or Tumblr (god, it's exhausting just writing those all out, remembering how many passwords I need to remember to access what I'm meant to be remembering). There is value and carefully considered content in those places too. But it's about being more careful with our content, with our creation, with our sharing, with what we choose to take in: perhaps investing more time in something, but with fewer words expended. Perhaps expending just as many words, but less often. 

Or just taking a deep breath and holding on tightly to a moment in your mind.

I look forward to learning more from the people who are already investing themselves in this movement. Brian's statement also includes a great list of further reading at the bottom, all of which I fully intend to read. Later, in a comfortable chair, away from my desk. To be considered carefully. You might want to stop hitting refresh for a while and do the same.

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.


Yesterday still lies in the cracks between floorboards.

I was fortunate enough to get to meet the great Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis sometime around 2002, in the basement of the Dailes Theatre. Over the joyful pump of dueling accordions celebrating the birthday of his wife, an actress in the theater, I shook his hand. I told him I had to remind myself to use the formal "Jūs" with him; he said not to worry about it, that he wasn't so formal himself. He told me the story of how he once went to speak to some children at a school. One boy said to him, "but wait, you're not dead?" And he said, "no, I don't think so." And the boy said "how strange, I thought we only read dead people in school!"

Imants Ziedonis passed away today at the age of 79, long after they started studying him in schools.

After his death had been announced, the following was posted on his Twitter account:

Grīdas dēļu šķirbās vēl guļ vakardiena. Viena nopūta dus trauku dvielī, un viens lamu vārds dus pavarda pelnos.

Translation: Yesterday still lies in the cracks between floorboards. One sigh rests in a dish towel, and one curse word rests in the fireplace ashes.

He always did write my favorite words. Rest In Peace, Ziedonis, wherever your words may fall.

(photo by Uldis Grasis)


More Mall Zen

A friendly reminder I'm still very much on Instagram. (More Mall Zen here.)

© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.


A State of Fiction

I wrote a piece on Barbara Browning's books (and fiction, and reality, and emotion, and death, and bathing) for the Emily Books blog:

It’s disturbing in a way to think of these very real characters as illusions. Browning herself talks about the difficulty of portraying real people in fiction. And as I said before, what good is an invented woman to a real one? But aren’t we illusions to other people? To ourselves? When we put on lipstick, when we play dress up, when we feign interest in a topic out of politeness? How much of our relationships with other people are things we invent entirely in our heads? Most of them? All?

How is the fiction of our reality any different from the reality of fiction? And why should our emotional reaction to one be any different from the other? Isn’t all of it the fantasy of perception? Or deception?

Read more here.


Sunday Zen




© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.

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