The End of Absence

I recently decided to add a new regular feature to WriteCreateClick by sharing  books that have positively impacted my life or motivated me to change some aspect of how I choose to live it. After all, if it helps me, why not share it with others?   As I type this, I realize I’m more than open to suggestions on books that help one deal with life with a neurotic rescue dog who is fearful of cats, squirrels, birds, rain, delivery men, wind & pumpkins. Yes, pumpkins. Today it happens to be the meter reader.  Life is indeed an adventure with Apollo!  Somedays it’s a bit more than I can handle:-)  I digress…

The first book I would like to highlight is The End of Absence by Michael Harris.

UnknownThis book caught my eye while I was waiting in line to check out at Barnes & Noble.  Having children who love computers, iPhones and iPads, I have developed a somewhat unrelenting concern with how these devices are affecting their world:  the relationship they have with me & their friends, their social skills, their manners, their education, their creativity, etc.  The opening sentences on the book jacket read:

“Soon enough, nobody will remember life before the Internet.  What does this unavoidable fact mean?”

My generation will remember life before.  We know what it was like to experience living without constantly being connected.  Some of us, and most certainly myself, still have that longing to unplug and seek solitude away from texts, e-mails, Facebook, Instagram, and even the ringing of the phone, which although not a new annoyance, is now an annoyance that follows you everywhere – the beach, the car, the beauty salon, the cruise ship, the dinner out – and isn’t just an issue in our home (where we no longer even have a land line).

I have attempted to discuss these issues and how we should deal with it on Facebook and like most attempts at Facebook discussions, I generally get self-righteous advice from people telling me that it’s in my control & not really an issue at all.  “Take their devices!”  “Make them go outside.”  “My son never has too much screen time because *I* limit it.”  But these people are missing the point.  No matter how perfectly they think they are parenting, the influences and pressures and risks our kids face being online and constantly connected are not going away just because you limit their time and {think you} are in control.  You cannot change the fact that they will never know life before these devices came along.

It has been a long time since I have read a book where I felt the need to grab a highlighter and highlight passages that inspire me and contain information that I find brilliant or important enough to want to refer back to often.  This book made me do that.  I will warn you that it’s a somewhat intellectual, scholarly-type text.  But it’s so thought-provoking that I fully intend to re-read it soon. Mr. Harris’ concern with future generations being able to experience lack, absence, & dropping out of the daily electronic grind, if only for a short while, is a key theme in the book.

Here are just a few of the passages I highlighted:

“Despite the universality of this change, which we’re all buffeted by, there is a single, seemingly small change that I’ll be most sorry about. It will sound meaningless, but:  One doesn’t see teenagers staring into space anymore. Gone is the idle mind of the adolescent.”

“This is the problem with losing lack:  It’s nearly impossible to recall its value once it is gone.”

“The smartphone itself is a far, far safer friend than a messy, unpredictable human.”

“If we maintain that cognizance of the difference between an online life and an offline life, we can choose to enjoy both worlds and move between them as we wish.”

In the end, Mr. Harris urges to to look away from our devices more often and experience absence and solitude.  I put down this book feeling very, very grateful that I am part of the generation that has the experience of living both pre and post-internet.  He most certainly wrote a book that needed to be written.  Although you may feel it’s slow in parts due to the fact that it sometimes reads like a college thesis, just persevere and in the end I think you will come away better educated and informed about the world we find ourselves living in.

 

 

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