Chickens and Goats

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?

Music: Porter Wagoner :: Porter and Marty

7 Replies to “Chickens and Goats”

  1. Welcome to America, dude, the home of the allegedly free yet overwhelmed, insecure, sleep-deprived, frantic and confused. Our homeland has been “intelligently” designed to produce that effect in people so the fruits of our labor can more smoothly trickle upward into the portfolios of the mega-wealthy and powerful.

    How on earth do you do all that and blog too on top of it all? And run a hosting service?

  2. How on earth do you do all that and blog too on top of it all? And run a hosting service?

    And that’s the paradox of it. Would I really want the blog and the hosting service and the WordPress hacking to go away? Really? I’m so conflicted.

  3. I swear that the only thing that keeps me sane is my daily dose of laying around snuggling with my chihuahuas (and my daily 20 mg of paroxetine generic, which luckily a mere hour of my labor each month can purchase). ;-)

  4. I totally grok the info overload and pangs for something more simple and more fulfilling. I canceled my home TV and Internet access ~June.

    Best.decision.ever.

    So much good has come of it: being able to think about and do what *I* always say I want instead of procrastinating through the lowest common denominator of the “working 9-5 tired:” surfing the web and watching television until the wee hours of night.

    This morning I woke up at 5:15am to begin readjusting my schedule so that I can fit in training before work because I want to complete a triathlon a year from now. Why on earth would I want to do that? Because I want to LIVE life, not surf through it. I want to FEEL life course through me. I want life to be palpable, not passively received from a thousand inputs.

  5. Gilbert – I am in AWE of you. Amazing and wonderful.

    Back in the 70s I remember my parents talking about a movement called “voluntary simplicity” – already people were beginning to feel the chaos of too many inputs… the “rat race” was commonly referred to, and there was already a movement afoot to take back the elemental.

    Have you written much about your experience? Would love to read your thoughts on this.

  6. Gilbert – I am in AWE of you. Amazing and wonderful.

    Wow, thanks. I’m kind of in shock. Most people think I’m nutts! :c)

    Back in the 70s I remember my parents talking about a movement called “voluntary simplicity” – already people were beginning to feel the chaos of too many inputs… the “rat race” was commonly referred to, and there was already a movement afoot to take back the elemental.

    There’s a lot to that. It makes a lot of sense. Next time I’m at the library I will have to see what resources that have on that movement. It would be interesting to read about it. Are there any old zines that you know of that sprouted up around the movement?

    Have you written much about your experience? Would love to read your thoughts on this.

    I’ve thought about journaling the experience, but I haven’t just yet because I’ve struggled with the idea that it would take away from the experience: I need to keep my eye on the prize! I’ve recently settled on taking some time to keep a paper journal that I will transfer to the ‘net when I am comfortable enough in what I’m doing not to “relapse.”

    I do like the irony of someone writing a blog that claims to be living without the Internet.

    Dub-dub-dub-dot-no-internet-man-dot-com.

    There have certainly been interesting moments — like when a friend was hospitalized with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever right before I was to fly out to visit him and I had to call my technophobic mother to ask (cue grandpa voice), “Can you google something for me?”

    Then there was that first Sunday morning (with no car, I gave that up too, but not exactly by choice) and I had no idea what buses I had to take to get to church. It turns out it is a 1+ hour journey for something that would take 15 minutes by car. It also turns out that Sunday morning buses are crammed full to standing room only of low-income English as a second language people who have to wait and/or plan out their weekend days around hourly bus schedules and the buses that are inevitably early or late by 20 minutes. This is a subculture of my community that I never saw.

  7. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is real? Wow, sounds like a cartoon disease. (Hope he was OK in the end).

    Do you use the internet at work? Just curious how complete the disconnect is.

    I hear you on the irony of potentially blogging the experience. But a book – written with pen on lined paper of course – could do really well. I think there are a whole lot of people out there feeling overwhelmed by info-saturation who might like to join you, or at least toy with the idea. I’d buy a copy.

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