In the not too distant past, American farmers would occasionally look up from the plow to greet a stranger offering some news about national politics, revolution and war, the finding of gold, or perhaps the wonders of cities he would never visit.
The morsel of news, unverified and inaccurate, would fill his head and color his dreams for months. The few books he might own would be read to the point of decomposition and his entertainments were rare, mostly social, local and often church-based. In solitude, he built rock walls, worked the earth and loved someone based more on proximity and availability, and less on emotional and intellectual harmony. He typically died young.
Today, our national addiction to information and entertainment is serviced with astounding efficiency, leaving no square inch and no citizen of this country unsupplied. This has caused a new solitude of the American brain, even in our largest cities, where we sit before our screens in privacy and devour the realities of the entire world in real time and in high definition.
Oh, Pioneer, your stonewalls are crumbled and are replaced by the firewalls of our circuitry. We, your descendants, have paved your fields and live above them in concrete studios, honoring you from our Farmville.
You never had to edit yourself, because you never had too much of a good thing, except for clean air and fresh water. You didn't give us the skills needed to deal with the excess at our fingertips. Barely able to write your name, you couldn't predict that the human race would be sickened and weakened by its rabid need to receive virtual sensation, information and communication.
The unlimited anytime calling plan and the platinum cable TV option are nothing more than the opium den in which men backslide, health erodes and, immobilized and unproductive, humans finally settle on an evolutionary rung far below the roach and the rat.
In order to keep ourselves healthy in terms of information/entertainment intake, we have to get a grasp on the amount of time available for it in the course of a day and then we have to decide how to feed that addiction in a healthy way.
Here's a rough breakdown of the 24 hour weekday.
Sleep takes 8 hours, work gets 8 hours, physical activity ought to get at least 1 hour, transit gets 1 hour, chores and maintenance of a household get at least 2 hours, eating gets 2 hours and communicating or, with luck, having sex with a significant other gets 1 hour.
This leaves 1 hour in which to receive virtual sensations of our own selection. Do you really want to fill that time with Lindsay, Lebron, Lost and Late Night?
Here is a recipe that I'd like you to consider for the saving of your own mind and to help keep our American culture from mental disease and disintegration.
- Read more biographies, and read more obituaries of people famous for their accomplishments. Let their lessons seep into your mind. Let their habits and their decisions become yours.
- If you have to start a conversation with "What's up?" or "What are you doing?" or "Just thought I'd call to say hi," don't start the conversation. It's just small talk and it will steal your life.
- Formulate in your head what you are going to say before you actually say it.
- Stop watching CNN, MSNBC and FOX. Seriously. You are naïve if you think that by giving them your attention you are not actually giving them your soul.
- Follow no more than two television series.
- Do not play any video games.
- Go outside. Use your front lawn, your lobby or your steps. Speak with any real humans you may find there.
- Do not get agitated and angry over political issues unless you actually become active in an organization that seeks a solution to what annoys you. You may think your comments of outrage are admirable and demonstrate your powerful social conscience, but virtually throwing open your window and howling "I'm angry as hell and I'm not going to take it any more" is adolescent.
- In a world of sexually transmitted disease, computer sex is helpful until it deprives your partner of sex. Parcel out your orgasms according to your prioritized relationships. If your significant other gets fewer of those than your online hookups with webcams, you need to make some adjustments.
- I am beginning to think that love cannot be achieved virtually. In the movies, we often see men in solitary confinement, losing their minds while pacing prison cells and longing for human interaction. Being online was supposed to give us wings, not put us in lonely chains.
Doing this self-editing is no less important than getting your teeth cleaned, cutting out junk food or getting that over-50 colonoscopy. If you don't learn to do it, you become repulsive and diseased.