Oped: Seeking a quiet, analog life in the noisy digital age
Last week I again ignored “Cyber Monday,” that annual gimmick meant to get us buying stuff online instead of going outside and walking into a real store and talking to somebody face-to-face.
But last weekend, I did write about Small Business Saturday, the coordinated effort to have us patronize small, independent merchants.
There were a lot of us out doing the “Chapel Street stroll,” shopping at places you won’t find anywhere else, such as Merwin’s Art Shop and the Group W Bench.
We were out there doing our part to resist all digital all the time.
Yes, and a couple of weeks ago David Sax, author of “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter,” wrote an op-ed in the New York Times that spoke to me. It was headlined: “Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over.”
Sax said there was a time a few years ago when he loved having a smartphone, “a constant party at my fingertips.” But now, he admitted, “when my phone is on, I feel anxious and count down the hours to when I am able to turn it off and truly relax.”
Sax noted, “Thankfully, the analog world is still here” and in some respects it’s thriving. He cited figures from the Association of American Publishers: sales of print books are up for the third year in a row, while ebook sales are declining. In addition, vinyl record sales have experienced an upsurge over the past decade and sales of instant-film cameras, paper notebooks and board games also are growing again.
Oh, it’s true about people buying vinyl records these days. A sign outside Atticus Bookstore & Cafe on Small Business Saturday invited customers to come in because “’Tis the season for a turntable.”
And yes, people still need pads of writing paper. One night last week, I got out a pad and composed a hand-written letter to my sister as I lounged in bed. She’ll love it. People notice it when they receive a hand-written letter. Sometimes, they write back!
Quoting again from Sax, he said analog “provides a richness of experience unparalleled with anything delivered through a screen. People are buying books because a book engages nearly all of their senses, from the smell of the paper and glue to the sight of the cover design and weight of the pages read, the sound of those sheets turning and even the subtle taste of the ink on your fingertips.”
Yes, ink! The same can be said of a newspaper.
Sax does not advocate abolishing all things digital or throwing away our cellphones. He is saying we should try to strike the proper balance between digital and analog.
The writer Henry David Thoreau had this advice for us: “simplify.” For part of his life, he moved into a cabin by Walden Pond to get more attuned to nature, to seek quiet.
Dear reader, consider reading Thoreau’s “Walden” or the much more recent book by Norweigan explorer Erling Kagge, “Silence: In the Age of Noise.” He spent 50 days walking solo across Antarctica. Mighty quiet out there. In his book, Erling writes about seeking out truly quiet, unhurried places. It’s good for the soul.
In an interview on National Public Radio, Erling said of modern life, “Sometimes, it’s just getting too much.” And now that he has teenage kids, he describes life as “all noise.”
Ah yes, noise. We are now at the height of the leaf-blower season, the invasion of people with those noisy blowers that shatter the serenity of our neighborhoods. Last Sunday morning, my wife and I were walking down Orange Street in New Haven’s East Rock section, enjoying the weekend quiet, when suddenly a man emerged from his home with one of those infernal blowers and ruined the morning’s silence because he wanted to blow some leaves off his front steps and didn’t want to use a rake.
Did you know that leaf blowers with two-stroke engines also produce hydrocarbon emissions linked to cancer, heart disease and asthma? I also read that report in the New York Times.
Maybe we should re-think our approach to getting rid of leaves. If we left some of them in place, we would add nutrients to the soil.
I will be filling some bags with leaves and putting them on my curb this year as usual. But I promise you I’ll continue to use only a rake. My neighbors will like that.
First, I was disappointed to hear about Minnesota Sen. Al Franken making unwanted sexual contact. Now, another man I have long admired, Garrison Keillor, former host of “A Prairie Home Companion,” is taking heat. But for what, exactly?
When Minnesota Public Radio announced Wednesday it was severing all business ties with Keillor and even changing the name of “A Prairie Home Companion,” now hosted by Chris Thile, there was little information provided about his alleged misconduct.
MPR cited “inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him” but said it knew of no other allegations. So why the rush to judgement and punishment?
Keillor said he put his hand on a woman’s bare back because she was unhappy about something. According to an email the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported it received from Keillor, he said her shirt was open “and my hand went up it about six inches. She recoiled. I apologized. I sent her an email of apology later and she replied that she had forgiven me and not to think about it.”
Yes, it’s a little odd about his handing traveling “up it about six inches.” But we need more information before ruining his reputation and career. I have fond memories of seeing his show live in New York City with my wife and at the Palace Theater in Waterbury with my younger daughter. I will hold onto those memories and hold on before condemning him, until I hear more.