Talking with a friend tonight, and with another friend the night before, about how life has become a blur of commitments, kids’ birthdays, workload, sleeplessness. Then, almost like a perfect case-in-point, our babysitter showed up while we were in the middle of serving dinner to guests – we had arranged for a date night to get out and relax, then completely spaced it. Both of us. (The babysitter joined us for dessert and it was all good, but sheesh). We’re all ridiculously over-extended, over-committed, over-saturated, brains turning to … not quite mush, but something closely resembling it.
I sometimes feel like I can make things better, keep shreds of meaning afloat, by browsing RSS feeds in the margins, scanning a few sites for news of the weird and wonderful, blogging a bit. But ultimately, all those little tidbits amount to nothing, and life is no less blurry. In fact, it’s all just more noise, more crazy multitasking, and the extra information just contributes to the blur. We try to use software and organization techniques to bring order to the chaos, but in the end we’re just trying to tame the noise rather than making it go away.
Lately I’ve had the feeling that what I need is to just make a lot of my inputs go away, and to spend some time reading books, having conversations that last more than a minute. More than that, I find myself wanting to be gathering chicken eggs from a henhouse, shoveling goat shit… When I was a boy, we lived for a couple of years on a very small farm, and my brother and I drank nothing but goat milk – sometimes directly from the goats’ teats, warm and hairy. We raised a pig, then slaughtered and butchered it ourselves. I’ve never taken meat for granted from that point on. My parents were trying to create a real environment for us, and to some extent I think the message got through. And yet I’ve allowed my life to become disconnected from dirt. Something in me wants to make sure that Miles can suckle from goat teats too.
The more noise that gets through, the more drowned I feel, the more I find myself wanting to reconnect to something elemental and permanent and meaningful. And yet I’m so embroiled in this digital world that I can’t see my way clear to enjoying a simple Sunday without tending to everyone else’s needs… how many years has it been since I’ve read the Sunday paper, or been able to read more than one or two books a year? Looking in this particular mirror makes me feel like something is desperately wrong.
Right now I’m longing to hear the clang of goat bells outside my bedroom window, to know I’ll be heading out to gather breakfast from the chicken coop in a few hours. But I can’t see how to get there from here. How do you re-organize a life that dramatically?