The Quiet Life

Random and unraveled, like my current mental status. Good luck!

One day, early in November, the internet turned off. At the time, I thought it would be a short outage, quite common in our area; as soon as the network was repaired, I thought, the connection would return. But as the days passed and this failed to happen, I realized that internet was out for the long haul. While this usually wouldn’t be a big issue, being mandatorily (yes, a new word) confined to my house made it much more so.

If I couldn’t go running or wandering through town or hiking or biking or eating out or meeting people or shopping or internetting, what would I do? How would I fill my (admittedly minimal) free time? I had gone through nearly all of my books, and, desperate as I was, wasn’t about to start perusing the “easy readers” in our program’s library; though, after my high school’s emphasis on literature not written by white men, I’d always wanted to read more classic English novels, I wasn’t expecting (and didn’t want) to finish them in thirty pages or less.

However, as the days started to pass, I realized I still had plenty of options. Studying language(s), playing piano, working on long-term projects I had been putting off, and doing my “confinement” exercise routine quickly started to fill up my time. The biggest casualty was my (already nearly nonexistent) social life; I missed the degree of human contact I was previously able to maintain through the internet and trips to the bar in town. All of my time-filling pursuits were solitary in nature; though them, I consciously attempted to ignore, if not deny, the presence of others outside of the confines of my apartment by immersing myself in other worlds and states of being. If I was lost within a Chopin ballade, or within a traditional Tibe$an folktale, or even more physically lost within the sprawling confines of the textbook I’m trying to edit, I became, if only temporarily, less aware of the restricted confines in which I now had to make my life, and of the enveloping political situation beyond. The music, literature, study and work (and strange house-exercise routine as well) into which I immersed myself were nothing more or less than means of temporary socialization with other times, places and people – a means of temporary escape.

To all those astrophysicists who decry humanity as, to quote a recent Radiolab episode (if you don’t listen to this podcast, you should!) “a speck on a speck on a speck on a speck of nothingness”, or something thereabouts, I would instead argue that the breadth of humanity’s presence manifests itself differently. Rather than being a physically spatial presence (which we assuredly are not), I would posit that humanity’s great achievement is the scope of its presence in the spatial realm of the imagination. For every galaxy discovered by astronomers and physicists, there are numerous galaxies and worlds and universes that have been created by authors and poets and musicians and artists and all of those “creative people” that so many individuals in government assume are unimportant. While we only inhabit one small planet, our cumulative creations can take us far beyond, helping us transcend our surroundings and whatever difficulties may lie within such confines and, ultimately, helping us realize that such vast expanses lie within our own minds – and that we have, inside ourselves, seemingly infinite resources at our disposal to help us through difficulties and loneliness and apparent confinement.

That being said, it is certainly nice to be able to leave one’s apartment, and to have internet, which (as is obvious from my writing here) recently returned. Such resources allow us unbelievable freedoms, but often allow us to forget ourselves or lose track of who we are or what goes on inside our minds. After I finished my first email check in weeks, I closed my computer and decided to go on a run up the mountain behind my house. When I returned home, I didn’t care if the internet was on or off. It’s nice to have it on every so often, so I can connect with family and friends, but otherwise, I’ve learned, I can do without. That gray matter inside my own head is almost always enough for me to get by.

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