Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: smart phones

Hopeful Dystopian Fiction: Fahrenheit 451

“Michelle, come on. Hopeful dystopian fiction? I mean, dystopian means bad…very bad.” I know, but give me a minute here. Things can be bad and there can still be a bright future glimmering inside, maybe not for the characters but for their children or children’s children.

Possible SPOILER ALERT, my dears!

So, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 and I start thinking maybe I remembered less of this book than I thought. I remember Montag meeting the girl and the hound is chasing him. I vaguely remember him getting away, but I don’t how and I’m only halfway through the book. Maybe I didn’t finish reading it last time?

And then the story is over. What?

It turns out that the 60th Anniversary Edition has bonus material. Sweet! The last 100 pages are “History, Context, and Criticism.” They include critical reviews and a few letters from Ray Bradbury. Those were my favorite! Every word I read from him, the more I love him.

His novels and short stories are not complex but hold so much power.

There was one little thing that stuck out to me on this time around, the “seashells.” He’s describing earbuds that people listen to constantly in Fahrenheit 451. Strange because right before I started reading the book, I had commented to a friend at lunch that everywhere I looked people were wearing those damn wireless earbuds. They look like remote control people.

I’ve never been able to listen to anything on those things. I feel vulnerable when they are in my ears, cut off from the sounds of the rest of the world, all hails and warnings too. I can’t focus on what I’m listening to. When people walk by with them on, it’s clear they want no contact from me. It’s creepy. Like we’re all alone…together.

In 1953, he wrote an article for “The Nation,” called “The Day After Tomorrow: Why Science Fiction?”

“So much depends, of course, on what the individual hears when he gives himself over to the electronic tides breaking on the shore of his Seashell. The voice of conscience and reason? An echo of morality? A new thought? A fresh idea? A morsel of philosophy? Or bias, hatred, fear, prejudice, nightmare, lies, half-truths, and suspicions?”

I don’t use earbuds, but I do listen to podcasts while I drive, as you probably have read in one of my Podcast Roundups. There are so many choices out there and I could fill my time in a million different ways, but I choose book discussions, philosophy, something that will help my reasoning, give me a new thought or a fresh idea, not add to my confirmation bias or stir up angry feelings of injustice.

And what about our smart phones with social media feeds? He couldn’t have seen that from way back there, but I think his feelings about in-ear radios match up quite nicely. Who or what you “follow” makes all the difference in the world.

One more little thing and then I’ll let you go.

“Is there…a delicate interplay where the society does not crush the individual but where the individual realizes that without his cooperation society would fly to pieces through the centrifugal force of anarchy?”

That’s something to think about, isn’t it? Personally, I’m a fan of classic anarchy (meaning “an absence of any form of political authority”) and prefer it to what we are currently running headlong into, but I get what he’s saying. Living in a community is a give and take dance. The bigger the community, the more complicated it becomes. You can’t run onto the dance floor and start a mosh pit while the ballroom dancers are gliding across the floor without inflicting injuries. And, ethically, we can’t force everyone to dance the same dance at the same time, so what do we do? Make space I suppose, take turns, create contracts, set up personal boundaries.

Reading Fahrenheit 451 after George Orwell’s 1984 was soothing. Sure, it’s dystopian, a cautionary tale about where we may be headed, but with a hopeful ending. I closed the book thinking, “See? Even if we screw things up royally, we’ll come back again.” Humanity has been much worse off in the past. I mean, the Dark Ages?!

If you keep your eye on the bigger picture, the one that includes each and every one of us as a thread in larger tapestry, things aren’t so overwhelming. Each of our lives adds a bit of color or texture to the design. Our little piece of string doesn’t seem like much but without us, the whole thing starts to unravel.

Instead of worrying so much about where I fit or what others are doing, I’ve decided to focus on my own life and connect with the people around me. Like the outliers in Fahrenheit 451, I do my best to memorize what I can and pass it forward to the next person.

If you’d like to read more of my posts about this book, pop back over to “Fahrenheit 451: New Read.”

The “Evil” of Smart Phones

Ahh, the perennial post about the evils of smartphones. Apparently, they are ruining our relationships and destroying our children’s minds because they don’t have the skills to cope with their use. Really? I find that line of thinking so strange. I quickly started to comment out of rage against such thinking and then stopped before I hit send. I copied it to a memo on my phone, added more in a couple of minutes, and then put it away to finish eating my breakfast and make something for my son before he left for work. I talked to them about what I heard and my reaction. They could see I had passionate feelings about it and told me they thought I might be overreacting. There are always going to be people like that, people that are afraid of new things, people that have a harder time seeing the future or coping with changes. “Let it go,” my young adult son tells me, “Focus on the positive.”

But here I am, an hour later, still upset. I decided to journal about it. Maybe it’ll be a blog post. Oh, who am I trying to kid! Of course, it will be a blog post!

I copied the initial response and shared it to myself from my phone so that I could have it on my computer. I can type better and edit easier with all my fingers. And here I am, thinking about it and wondering how to put my thoughts into positive words.

First of all, about 90% of my current friends I met online through Yahoo groups on the computer in the early 2000’s and on Facebook on my phone in the second decade. If it weren’t for those groups, I’d be a lonely mess. I’d have met far fewer people that share my interests and I’d never would have gotten the help I needed for my anxiety. Our whole lifestyle changed for the better because I was able to search for answers on the internet.

Second, smartphones made our education style way more exciting. While out in the world, we can search for answers on the spot. We can find friends to meet, places to go, food to eat, directions, and more information about the thing we are looking at and curious about at that moment. It has enhanced our lives in a million ways! And I can stay connected to my friends and family at the same time. My Mother-in-law can call me for help wherever I am. My husband can know when we’ll be home. My brother can share his life with us from the other side of the country. And my Dad can meet us for pizza any day. Smartphones connect us to people. That’s who’s on the other end of the phone. Real people.

And another thing…I think I’ll file this under “rants”…humans crave attention, connection to other people. Smartphones can give that to them. Children can and will learn to navigate the world with the phones by using them. They will do so much better than us because they grew up with them, just like we are better at computers than our parents because we grew up using them. Instead of their own family and the neighbors to associate with, they have the whole world at their fingertips. If your children are more interested in their phones than their family, then make your family more inviting maybe? Maybe connect with them via the phone and more. I text my sons from across the room. I text my husband when he’s out in the garage. I share funny things I find online. And when we eat dinner, sometimes one of them answers a message because there is a person they care about on the other end. Sometimes the phone will ring and I’ll look at it and decide whether it’s urgent or not. I don’t discourage that. Why would I? What if my son’s girlfriend’s car broke down or my Mom was headed to the hospital? Should I ignore the call for help because I’m having dinner with my husband?

Yes, we are still adjusting to the new media. We’re inventing new social standards. And there are crappy people on the internet too. But, overall, the world is better for smart phones. We are better people because we have them.

Smartphones are not ruining your relationships. YOU are ruining your relationships with your phone, just like you could with anything else. The objects aren’t doing it. You are. And we all were ruining our relationships before phones with sports, alcohol, hobbies, cars, books, tv, etc. Everyone has an escape mechanism. Don’t blame the object. Change your behavior.

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