3.17.2011

Clouds, digital and otherwise

In the terrestrial, physical world, I am traveling this week, seeing things that I usually don't see, eating foods I usually don't eat ("I'm Big with the Pig" read the T-shirts worn by teenage staffers at the local Piggly-Wiggly supermarket) and drinking beer that is markedly inferior to the brews that I have become accustomed to in Vermont.

Not seen in Vermont...

100% real Vermont cumulus clouds

But in another sense, I live in the clouds. Although I am 1,000 miles from home, I just login into my various online accounts using a borrowed laptop and presto much of my 'real' life seems to be close at hand: The same conversations, the same media flitting by. Even though outside the sun is shining and daytime temperatures almost hit 70 degrees -- not early spring weather in Vermont -- in many ways it is like I have never left.

There are many implications rippling outward from this life in the digital cloud, but two that come immediately to mind are:
  1. While this situation is quite convenient, it also means that 'home is where the Internet connection is' and reduces any sense of dislocation caused by travel. There is less impetus to get out and experience new things when one's digital life is so close at hand -- and I don't even have a smartphone, so at least I don't carry my Internet connection around with me.
  2. We are living in a uniquely self-centered, artificial world where we are the stars of our own individual show. This cuts us off -- as individuals, and as a society -- from the natural world, and from the reality that nature is absolutely indifferent to our life or death: We are not so special after all. We are shocked when the ground liquefies beneath our feet and the lights go out and don't come back on again.
I am in no means trying to make light of the situation in Japan -- a terrible, tragic situation -- just trying to point out it might be good to plant a garden, do some trail work, or sleep in a lean-to and not blog, 'tweet' or update facebook about it afterward.

And I know that I am guilty as charged.

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