There are books that make you feel as if everything you know is uncertain.D. W. Pasulka’s American Cosmic is such a book.Its subtitle, UFOs, Religion, Technology, only pauses at the brink of the rabbit hole down which this study will take you.Over the years I admit to having been jealous of colleagues who’ve been able to make an academic career stick.The credentials of a university post open doors for you, even if you’re a professor of religion.Pasulka has opened some doors here that I suspect many would prefer to have kept closed.This is a compelling book, threading together many themes tied to religious studies.There are things we might see, if only we’ll open our eyes.
Although immediately and automatically subjected to the ridicule response, UFOs are a fascinating subject.This book isn’t about UFO religions—of which there are many—but rather it connects this phenomenon to the study of religion itself.In Pasulka’s related field of Catholic studies, there are those anomalous accounts of saints who did the impossible.Like UFOs, they are subjected to the ridicule response, making serious discussion of them difficult.Might the two be related?As you feel yourself spinning deeper and deeper down that hole, technology comes into the picture and complicates it even further.Pasulka was a consultant on The Conjuring.I’ve written about the movie myself, but what I hadn’t realized is how media connects with perceptions of reality.Yes, it has a religious freight too.
Every once in a while I reflect that my decision—if it was a decision; sometimes I feel certain my field chose me—to study religion might not have been misplaced.Perhaps all of this does tie together in some way.American Cosmic is a mind-expanding book that assures me all those years and dollars learning about religion weren’t wasted after all.I had a discussion recently with another doctoral holder who’s been relegated to the role of editor.We both lamented that our training was in some sense being wasted on a job that hardly requires this level of training.Still, if it weren’t for my day job I probably wouldn’t have known about this book, and that is perhaps a synchronicity as well.Life is a puzzle with many thousands—millions—of pieces.Some books are like finding a match, but others are like informing you that you’ve got the wrong box top in hand as you try to construct the puzzle with the pieces you have.If you read this book be prepared to come close to finding the white rabbit.
One of the scariest tropes in horror (or other) movies is where the protagonist has to rely on the monster (or antagonist) to be rescued.All the time the viewer is wondering if the monster is going to turn on the hero since, well, it’s a monster.The tension builds because the situation is untenable to begin with, but there is no other way out.So lately that’s the way I’ve been feeling about technology.The first and only time I drove to Atlantic City (it was for a concert some years back), navigating by GPS was still new.In fact, I didn’t have a device but my brother did so he brought it along.I remember not trusting it to know the local traffic rules, but once we got into an unfamiliar city I had to rely on it to get us to the venue.The fact that I lived to be writing this account suggests that it worked.
I no longer commute much.Still, I’m occasionally required to go into the New York office for a day.It’s a long trip from here, and to handle the true monster of New York City traffic, I have to leave the house before 4 a.m. to get a spot on the earliest possible bus.If I do that I can justify catching the bus that leaves the Port Authority before 5 p.m., the daily urban traffic apocalypse.The last time I did this, just this week, it was raining.Rain almost always leads to accidents in New Jersey, where the concept of safe following distance has never evolved.And so I found myself on a bus off route because the major interstate leading into Pennsylvania was completely closed.The driver announced he wasn’t lost, just trying to find the back way home.When the streets turned curvy and suburban he asked if anyone had a maps app on their phone.
Lately I’ve been complaining about smartphones.Truth be told, I do use mine as a GPS when I get lost.It’s at that stage in an iPhone’s life when it shows you a full battery one second and the next second it’s completely dead, so I let my fellow passengers—every single one of whom has a smartphone—do the navigating.People on the narrow, off-route roads might’ve wondered what a bus was doing way out here, but we finally did get to the park-n-ride.The monster had helped us to escape.And people wonder why I like horror movies…
I wonder if anyone’s done a study on how cell phones affect our psyches.The other day my wife upgraded her phone.What with this being technology and all, the setting up rendered both her old and new phones useless so we would have to go back to our dealer.Since she has to drive to work and I don’t, I gave her my phone for the day.I use my phone little on most days.Soon, however, I began to feel very isolated.Anyone could reach me by email or landline, but I was without my cell phone for about 10 hours and I grew edgy.What had happened to me?Was I experiencing withdrawal from tech?My smartphone is with me all the time and I’ve come to depend on it being there, even if I don’t use it.Is this healthy?
That night we were back at the dealer’s shop.One of the techies was trying to help us and because of the uber-security state in which we live, he had to text me a passcode to get into my wife’s phone (it’s my name on the joint account).When his text didn’t come through he asked if he could see my device.I handed him my iPhone 4S and he acted as if I’d just passed him a human-alien hybrid baby.As if he’d never seen anything so antiquated.In all seriousness he said, “You have to upgrade.Soon this phone will no longer work.”I have to wonder about the extortion of companies that sell you expensive devices then force you to upgrade when your salary doesn’t keep up with inflation.My old phone does what I need it to do.A new one will be capable of much more for which I won’t use it.I work at home and I don’t give my cell number out to work colleagues.
There’s a psychological study in here.I don’t want people who don’t know me personally calling my cell.That’s what a landline is for.Not only that, but my hours are unconventional.Even people I know forget and send me texts after 8 p.m., waking me from a night’s sleep.You see, the phone is always present, and those of us who don’t conform must pay the price.The thought of being out of contact with others feels like solitary confinement.Tech companies have given us tweeting presidents and bosses that can reach us at any hour.And we happily comply.I appreciate the welcome text or call from family or friend, but when it comes to work and other necessities, I still prefer to receive a letter.Maybe I need to see a shrink.
There are times when the Internet’s asleep.Okay, well, so maybe that’s overstated, but if you have my hours you’ll quickly find the things you can’t do online well before 9 a.m.For example, just the other day I wanted to check out one of my accounts that I only vaguely understand.It’s with a company my employer contracts with, and it has an innocuous name that tells you nothing about what it really does.Still, I had to check in.After looking up the password, and going through the usual 18-step confirmation of my identity (it didn’t recognize my laptop), I landed on a page stating that it was the routine maintenance period for the website, and would I be so kind as to check back in later.This is not an isolated incident.In fact, I often awake around 3 a.m. to find that my laptop’s also doing routine maintenance, although I’m using it nearly every day at that time.Smart tech, indeed.
You see, the ultra-early riser has a different view of time than the rest of the world.After about 4 p.m. I don’t have the sharpness that was evident twelve hours before.Oh, I can still function, but it’s on auxiliary power.No warp drive that late in the day.I realize I’m the weird one here.After visiting friends and family and staying up to the obscenely late hour of 10 p.m., I’ll take an entire week to get back on track with days passing in a fuzzy haze of timely confusion.I’ve been trying to break the habit for over a year now, but I still occasionally have to go into New York City, and those days require ultra-early awakening.Knowing such a day is coming up, my body doesn’t want to be vulnerable to that shift.So I wake up naturally when many others are just getting to bed.
This is mid-day for some of us.
The problem with this is that if you have to get some business done before work hours, many websites are undergoing their maintenance.They don’t want to be interrupted when I’m actually alert.There’s a lot of talk about diversity these days, but the person trapped in the early rising net is not a protected category.It is frustrating to have people say “why don’t you just go back to sleep?” when you can’t.I’ve gotten used to all that.The early bird, they say, gets the worm.That depends, however, whether the worm is on the Internet or not because, believe it or not, the Internet slumbers in the middle of the night.
Those of us with Luddite tendencies prefer to hide them.Tech is the ultimate good, right?You’ve got a smart phone in your pocket or purse and it contains the entire internet and what more could anyone possibly want?Besides an upgrade, that is.I recently misplaced part of the charger for my old iPhone 4S.Yes, a phone that old can still work, no matter what they tell you!I went to the store to replace said part only to find that you had to purchase an upgraded replacement that costs twice as much as the old part did.Why?It had a new type of USB port, in addition to a “traditional” USB.Pardon my ignorance, but I thought the U stood for “Universal.”Now even vocabulary has to change to meet the demands of tech?Whoever the tech god is, s/he is extremely mercurial.
So I was in a meeting the other day.A guy older than me was talking about the future of tech.It occurred to me that guys my age (who didn’t get to take early retirement) are trying to act like those half our age, as if we really understand technology.Growing up with something is the only way, it seems, to adapt to it in any kind of naturalized way.There are kids today, if the internet’s to be believed, who don’t understand that you had to lift the receiver on an old-style telephone before dialing.And if that dial is rotary, well, let’s just say the pizza’s not going to be delivered anytime soon.Those who grew up with the internet and smart phones have a native understanding that people my age lack.I still write ideas down on paper.I prefer DVDs and CDs to streaming.And I believe books should be made of paper.
Changes in the tech world vindicate me.I heard that iTunes is going to be retired.This is after I’ve spent plenty of money downloading songs that I could’ve bought on DVD and have in “hard copy.”Indeed, friends are telling me to back up my MP3 files on some kind of storage device before iTunes goes the way of UltraViolet.And we’re supposed to trust tech.I’ve lost ebooks by switching devices.Some of my tunes have been licensed away because I downloaded them on an older computer.What’s one to do?Buy them again.In a new format.On a platform that will eventually be retired so you’ll need to repeat the purchase a third time.Or you can buy it once in paper or plastic and have it for good.Now there’s a radical idea.If only I had something to write it down on.
I must admit that I received my first “smart phone” with more than a little trepidation.It was going on a decade ago and I didn’t know my app from a hole in the ground.What was this thing that was a telephone and yet so much more?I carry it around with me, nevertheless, and I use it for the very occasional text, for a camera, and when it was younger, as a geocaching device.My sense of distrust came from being a user of personal computers for many years.There would be constant upgrades and renewals and each would cost you something.You don’t buy just a smart phone, you buy a liability.This Luddite screed arises from my attempts to get my boarding pass for my flight yesterday, with a special shout out to United Airlines.
Things change.I’m cool with that.Still, “checking in” for a flight has always meant your ticket was secure.When I went to check in yesterday, for the first time ever United Airlines allowed it only through your smart phone and only via its app.The app is free but my phone is of such an age that the app won’t work with it.I received the confirming text stating I wasn’t checked in.Wasn’t that exactly the same as the status at which I’d started?Why then did I spend half an hour of my Saturday trying to select a seat and telling it I am a vegetarian?(Vegans, it seems, are from another planet.)At least I didn’t have to specify a non-smoking row.I realized as I hung up that I was being shamed for not updating my phone.
You see, capitalism thrives on forcing the purchase of new things.If you wear clothes that are out of style (guilty as charged!) then you aren’t playing by the rules.If your phone is too big or too small (yes, size does matter), or if it flips open instead of being accidentally awakened when slipped out of your pocked, you’re a Luddite.If you can’t afford an update (which no longer fits in the pocket of a guy my size) you deserve to be shamed.You can’t check in.You have to stand in line and proclaim to all, “I didn’t upgrade.”I still use an iPhone 4S.It does what I need it to do.United Airlines doesn’t think so, however.Most of the apps have ceased to work.Now it is once again simply a phone, pretty much back where I’d started.
As we slide beneath the hegemony of technology, I’m impressed by the redefinition of vocabulary it demands.Because new printing technologies assume, for example, that the XML (one of the many mark-up languages) is primary, directional references in texts are inadequate.An example might help.If you’re a human being reading a book, and the author has discussed something a few pages ago, s/he might write “see above.”Now, it’s not literally above in the sense of being higher up on the same page (but it may be considered literally if the book is closed. And lying face up).The pages you already read are above those where you left the bookmark.I remember the first time I encountered this language; having been raised a literalist (and a naive realist) my eye hovered over the header and I wondered about the accuracy of “see above” or “see below.”The terminology soon became second nature, however, and I knew it wasn’t a literal reference.
In the days of XML (“eXtensible Markup Language,” therefore literally EML), the sense of play is now gone from writing.I’ve heard editors explain to authors that, in an ebook there is no above or below because there are no pages.A time-honored metaphor has been sacrificed on the altar of a tech that sees the world in black-and-white.You can’t point vaguely in the direction from which you’ve just come and say “it’s back there somewhere.”I sense, given all of this, that most copyeditors haven’t written a non-fiction book (for this is mostly an academic affectation).As a human being writing, you get into the flow and you don’t think, “Ah, I mentioned that in paragraph 2749; I’d better say it’s there.”And the reason you need to know the paragraph number is so the ebook can have a hyperlink.The argument itself suffers for XML precision.
As someone who writes both fiction and non, I am bound to look at this from the viewpoint of a human author.I’ve been known to paint and make sketches on occasion.All of these forms of expression have flow in common.At least when they’re good they do. If you want to stop a project cold, just say “Hey, I’m writing!” and watch yourself drop like a cartoon character who’s run off a cliff and just realized it.I’m sorry, I can’t point you to exact where that’s happened.It’s in many vague recollections of many cartoons I watched as a child.If the technomasters aren’t watching I’ll just say, “see above.”
Time, especially weekend time, is a non-renewable resource.Since I barely have enough time as it is, I do my best not to squander it.Yesterday we had to visit our local Target—we don’t buy at WalMart because there’s an ethics even to shopping these days.When we got inside it was obvious that a lot of people had the same idea.I’d never seen Target so crowded, and I’ve been in one on a Christmas Eve.We had only a small basket of purchases, so before long we headed for the checkout and saw an enormous line.Not being afraid of tech, we went toward the self-checkout and found that line long as well.Long and not moving.
Soon it became clear that all the registers were down.Store employees were handing out free bottled water and snacks, like airports used to do with cancelled flights.We were in for a good long wait.When we finally reached the register, which had started to come back online, the manager was helping those trying self-checkout.Since the system was still not really functioning, you could check out one item at a time—after several tries, each time requiring the manager to enter his pass-code—and pay for it and restart the process for the next item.We asked about the outage.He said it was global, all Target stores were down.“You’ll have a story to tell,” he said.My mind was actually going toward technology and its limitations.How much we rely on it.Without tech this blog would not be.A lot of famous people would be unknown.How would we find our way from point A to point B?Or look up a phone number?
The internet is beguiling in its ubiquity.We use it almost constantly and it’s always there for us.So we’ve come to believe.In addition to spreading the tissue of lies that is the Trump administration’s agenda of using post-truth as a means of power, it must be supported by a whole host of experts—those 45 routinely dismisses as irrelevant.Clouds were gathering outside, and I had a lawn yet to mow before the day was out.Indeed, my wife and I had intended this to be a quick trip because weekends and sunshine are a rare mix.As we bagged our six items and thanked the manager, we could see the line still snaking the length of the store.Had we more time we might’ve come back another day.Instead, we had briefly fallen victim to something that an old-time punch register might’ve solved. And a time when the pace of life itself was just a bit slower.
We get along in life, I believe, by routinely ignoring the rather constant dangers that surround us.Oh, we’ve taken care of the larger faunal predators, but we’ve replaced them with ourselves.Our success as a species leads us to places we might not be comfortable being.I was recently exposed to the documentary National Bird.It’s about drones.Not the friendly ones from Amazon that we hear will soon be delivering books to our doorstep, but the military grade kind.I first became aware of how pervasive the military use of drones is while reading Wired for War (on which I posted here some years back).The difference between that academic knowledge and watching the documentary is the human element.Drones are assassination machines with high explosives and they are subject to no regulation.
Many of us feel, occasionally, some level of discomfort with how much information “they” have on us.We don’t even know who “they” are or what they want.Using the internet, we give them our information.Caving to our desire for instant communication, we carry around smart phones that know where we are constantly.Martin Luther once said you couldn’t stop birds from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from making a nest in your hair.It’s becoming harder to shoo them away. The nest is well established.Our houses are easily found on Google maps, and drones can keep constant watch, like weaponized guardian angels.Only they’re not our guardians.As National Bird makes clear, drones kill civilians.Women and children.The conversations of the operators reveal how much they’ve bought into the jingoism of the “war on terror.”The film also deals with the human cost of those who operate drones.
Technology stands to make life better, for some.Watching people who have very little, who live in what would be considered poverty in this part of the world, being bombed by people remotely, is disturbing.The operators, trained as if they’re playing a game, kill and then have to deal with it.The use of tech to try to sanitize brutality was dealt with decades ago on a particularly famous episode of Star Trek appropriately called “A Taste of Armageddon.”Rather than try to resolve conflict we, like those of Eminiar 7, readily accept it if it’s kept at a distance.Only drones aren’t science fiction.We’ve been using them for over a decade now, and we prefer not to think about it.This isn’t an option, unfortunately, for those who’ve been targeted by technology.The predators are still out there after all.
The smoke encircled his head like a thief.And not in a saintly way.I was going to have to rethink this.You see, the culture of the early morning commute is one where you stand in line with strangers before dawn.Having grown up a victim of second-hand smoke at home, I can’t stand it now.Should I go wait in the line (which was growing) where the last guy was smoking, or sit in my car?Work anxiety always wins out in such situations, so off I trudged.I discovered, however, that the man in front of me wasn’t smoking after all.He was vaping.What was this chemical stew hanging in the air that had just come from his mouth?
I worry about second-hand vape.How desperate must a person be to smoke a device?You see, my trust in technology goes only so far.People are slowly beginning to understand that electronics don’t solve every problem.Vinyl records are starting to come back, even at Barnes and Noble.Independent bookstores are returning, despite the rise of Kindle.I’m still waiting for it, but film cameras may once again appear.There’s something about the Ding an sich.The tech of the stereo was invented for the analogue record.Yes, the MP3 is faster and cheaper, and you can buy just the song you want with the click of a virtual button, but we still have our favorite LPs around.This isn’t misplaced nostalgia, like those who long for the 1950s.No, this is simply the recognition that faster isn’t always better.Some things were meant to linger.
Vaping is, however, an example of how a bad habit becomes a vice with no point.Initially meant to come to the succor of smokers who couldn’t do it indoors, vaping was also quickly relegated to the outside.Many people, it seems, don’t want to breathe someone else’s smoke.Do you develop artificial cancer from artificial nicotine?Another commuter comes up to the guy in front of me.Like a couple of kids on a 1970s schoolyard, they exchange vape flavors.The first guy doubles up with a coughing fit.Spits off the curb.The second guy says, somewhat anticlimactically, that this one’s strong stuff.I have to wonder what future generations, if there’ll be any, will think of our love affair with devices.The bus pulls in.I’m the only one on the whole thing who clicks on the over seat light.I have a physical book to read.
When I get an idea my first impulse is to grab an envelope and pencil and start scribbling.I run around with an older crowd.Many of my generation don’t appreciate how much a single “share” can do for a blog post, or what a simple link to a page can do.I have college friends who have no email addresses and who are invisible on the web.I guess this is a young person’s playing field.I suppose one of my reasons for writing about horror is that it keeps me in the younger demographic.I don’t know too many people my age who are fans of “the genre.”Sci fi is a little more acceptable, I suppose.Still, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I find horror so fascinating.There’s actually something redemptive about it, at least in my reading of the material.It’s also a coping mechanism.
One reason that people tell stories (and read stories), according to psychologists, is to learn how to handle situations they might encounter.This is on a subconscious level most of the time, otherwise speculative fiction simply wouldn’t apply.I can’t recall having been in a crisis situation and stopping to think what a Stephen King character would have done in such circumstances, but I suppose that might be in the back of my mind somewhere, along with information about all the things I’ve mislaid over the years.The older you get, in a technologically rapacious society, the more things there seem to be worthy of horror stories.I haven’t even figured out the last round of devices before the new generation’s introduced.No wonder so much of horror has to do with being attacked by monsters that look innocent.Clinically engineered in a clean room.
Image credit: Pattymooney, via Wikimedia Commons
Some of the horror comes from the inherent instability of a constantly upgrading tech.My laptop’s a few years old.While a little younger than that, the device that sits on my laptop is also not fresh from the factory.The last time I tried to back up the contents, the external hard drive (new from the factory) refused to do what I commanded.While I did eventually figure it out, I wasted a good deal of my scarce free time working out how a device I couldn’t control was in fact controlling me.Younger folks grew up with this kind of problem solving drilled into them from kindergarten on.Now I find myself in a world of devices I can’t comprehend and which don’t even react the same way they did last time I bought the exact same one.I ask my fellow quinquagenarians what to do and I watch as they grab an envelope and pencil.
One of those things that really bothers me is the concept of being forced out of a home.It’s never happened to me personally, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fear it.That idea works its way into more theoretical applications as well.Lately both my phone and my laptop computer have sent me messages saying there’s no more room in the inn.Now, dear reader, you may understand technology better than I (you almost certainly do), but I wonder just how much these weightless thoughts I store here can possibly tip the scale.I back up my hard disc weekly—there’s no telling who’s going to get kicked out when all the room is finally gone!—but when I open my space manager I find all kinds of things I can’t identify.Software that I’m not sure it’s safe to remove. I have no idea what the function of many apps might be.So I just start deleting.
No room for your data here!
And I keep deleting.I won’t touch my writing, however.It’s backed up on a high-capacity drive, but such drives fail.I want to keep a copy here on my laptop where I can reach it.The real problem is that this massive sorting exercise keeps me from doing the things that I’d rather spend my time on—writing blog posts, for example.How can I relax to do that, though, knowing that there’s no room to store them when I’m done?Why does iTunes take up so much space anyway?I feel guilty deleting anything from it because of all those warning dialogue boxes with their dire notes that this action can’t be undone.Occam’s erasure has its consequences, I guess.
I suppose this is related to my recent observations on how tech demands time.I’ve got some big projects going.One is to sort out and file all my browser bookmarks.They are embarrassingly plentiful.Then there’s the sorting of thousands and thousands of electronic photos into files.When I first starting using devices there weren’t enough pictures or bookmarks to worry about.Now each of these projects has been ongoing for months and neither is nearing the end.I’m old enough to recall when office supply stores sent catalogues (print catalogues, no less!) to my employers stating things like, “We’re in themidst of an information explosion.You should buy folders in bulk.”They meant manilla folders.Were we ever so naive?Now what about these ebooks that I also have in hard copy?Which should I get rid of?That choice, at least, is easy. Even my manger has room for books.
So how much time is there?I mean all together.I suppose there’s no way to know that because we have no idea what came before the Big Bang.Those who invent technology, however, seem not to have received the memo.New tech requires more time and most of us don’t have enough seconds as it is.Perhaps in the height of folly (for if you read me you know I admit to that possibility) I’ve begun uploading material to my YouTube channel (I hope I got that link right!). These are cut-rate productions; when you’re a single-person operation you can’t fire the help.I figured if those who don’t like reading prefer watching perhaps I could generate a little interest in Holy Horror visually.(I like my other books too, but I know they’re not likely to sell.)
The question, as always, is where to find the time for this.My nights are generally less than eight hours, but work is generally more.What else is necessary in life, since there are still, averaged out, eight more left?Writing has its reserved slot daily.And reading.Then there are the things you must do: pay taxes, get physical exercise, perhaps prepare a meal or two.Soon, mow the lawn.It may be foolishness to enter into yet another form of social media when I can’t keep up with those I already have.What you have to do to drive interest in books these days!I think of it as taking one for the tribe.Readers trying to get the attention of watchers.
There’s an old academic trick I tried a time or two: double-dipping.It works like this: you write an article, and another one, and another one.Then you make them into a book.I did pre-publish one chapter of a book once, but getting permission to republish convinced me that all my work should be original.That applies to reviews on Goodreads—they’re never the same as my reviews on this blog—as well as to my YouTube videos.There’ll be some overlap, sure.But the content is new each time around.So you can see why I’m wondering about time.Who has some to spare?Brother, can you spare some time?I’ve been shooting footage (which really involves only electrons instead of actual linear imperial measures) for some time now.I’ve got three pieces posted and more are planned to follow.If only I can find the time.
It lied to me.My computer.Don’t get me wrong; I know all about trying to save face.I also know my laptop pretty well by now.It was running slow, taking lots of time to think over fairly simple requests.A lull in my frantic mental activity led to the opportunity for me to initiate a reboot.When it winked open its electronic eye my screen told me it had restarted to install an update.Untrue.I had told it to restart.I gave the shutdown order to help with the obvious sluggishness that suggested to this Luddite brain of mine that my silicon friend was working on an update.There’s no arguing with it, however.In its mechanical mind, it decide to do the restart itself.I was merely a bystander.
Technology and I argue often.Like JC says, though, authority always wins.I should know my place by now.I’ve read enough about neuroscience (with thanks to those who write for a general audience) to know that this is incredibly human behavior.We are creatures of story, and if our brains can’t figure out why we’ve done something they will make up an answer.We have trouble believing that we just don’t know.I suppose that will always be a difference between artificial intelligence and the real thing.Our way of thinking is often pseudo-rational.We evolved to get by but machines have been designed intelligently.That often makes me wonder about the “intelligent design” crowd—they admit evolution, but with God driving it.Why’d our brains, in such circumstances, evolve the capacity for story instead of for fact?
As my regular readers know, I enjoy fiction.Fiction is the epitome of the story-crafting art.Some analysts suggest our entire mental process involves construing the story of ourselves.Those who articulate it well are rewarded with the sobriquet of “author.”The rest of us, however, aren’t exactly amateurs either.Our brains are making up reasons for what we do, even when we do irrational things (perhaps like reading this blog sometimes).Stories give our lives a sense of continuity, of history.What originally developed as a way of remembering important facts—good food sources, places to avoid because predators lurk there—became histories.Stories.And when the facts don’t align, we interpolate.It seems that my laptop was doing the same thing.Perhaps it’s time to reboot.
Weather affects more than the Psalms, of course.With all the hype of the latest winter storm things were closed or delayed before any accumulation even started.Now I’ll admit up front that I’m a fan of snow days; we dutifully trudge to our desk jobs as if we’re doing something vital when many of us are really just trying to make money for the man.A snow day’s a little unplanned levity in our lives when staying off the roads seems like a good idea.It’s one of life’s guilty pleasures.Of course, the dreaded delayed opening brings its own set of issues.You can’t sleep in unless it’s announced the night before, and once you’re up your mind heads to work anyway.Working remotely, alas, means you have no excuse, no matter what the weather.
Snow is a great symbol.I don’t mean its whiteness and purity—there are plenty of white things that aren’t pure.No, I mean it’s a great symbol in its ability to control people.We don’t like rain, although we understand its necessity.Snow, however, fills us with a childlike wonder.Anticipation.Unlike a winter rain, it can be fun to play in.It covers everything.The suggestion of a blanket ironically makes us feel warm, even as the temperature dips below freezing.But for me the most potent symbol is light.I awake early, even on snow days.As I make my way downstairs in the dark, it’s immediately evident when snow covers everything because the sky is lighter than it should be this time of day.Whatever light’s trapped below the clouds reflects off the snow creating a luminosity that’s almost otherworldly in its calm.It doesn’t last too long for the sun is rising earlier, at least it is until our pointless time change, but for a few hours we’re in the midst of an unnatural light.
Darkness is far too prevalent.We know that someday even our mighty sun will use up all its fuel.We crave the light for it’s limited.Days are noticeably longer now than they were at the start of December.Those few moments of serenity before the sun comes up, when the snow produces what seems like its own light, are among the most tranquil of life.Before the plows begin scraping metal against asphalt, hoping for a snow day while wrapped in a fleece throw, face clouding the chilly window before it.Yes, it’s a powerful symbol.Even if the internet means work awaits just as usual.