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“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,”

but the pastor’s daughter thought,

“people who live in glass houses shouldn’t,”

because her life felt like a glass house

a fish bowl or a zoo exhibit

and it made her uncomfortable

until she saw the best level of comfort available to her

could be gained by smiling politely at the onlookers,

a docile captive relaxing on the concrete.

 

These days almost everyone I know lives in a glass house.

The glass is made of backlit screens

and you can project anything you want there

a polite smile, a superior sneer,

an angst-ridden mask of mystique

a hip air of disinterestedness

while inside your house you push keys, click mice,

and wrestle with your death wish

for a stone to come crashing through

bringing down the house,

letting in the weather.

 

“Yes, I love technology; but not as much as you, you see; but I still love technology, always and forever . . .” – Kip Dynamite

I am typing this post on a small plastic box with a shiny screen. I have no idea how the pressure of my fingers on the small squares in front of me ultimately sends my thoughts out to you, who are also looking at something plastic and shiny.

This stuff just works, and most of us use it every day with little to no knowledge of how it works. We leave it up to the wizards to design it, fix it, replace it.

Which has me wondering – how much of this is progress?

There was a time when our tools were understandable. Hand tools like chisels, hammers, and my favorite, the pen. Mechanization improved our tools, making them more powerful, but less easily understood by common users. Still, the moving parts were observable enough, and with a little demonstration and hands-on learning, a user could understand how something worked, and repair it if something went wrong.

Then came electronics, and ultimately, digital technology – which is almost completely beyond my level of understanding. Not because I lack a decent education, but because I don’t have a college degree in electrical engineering.

Now, when my smart phone or laptop has troubles, I might do a little research on repairing it myself, but if the fix involves physical work rather than changing something in the settings or some other point-and-click maneuver, I need a wizard. Slash brain surgeon.

I live and work in a world of magic. I accomplish many of my everyday tasks and a good part of my creative work using fantastically powerful and almost completely inscrutable talismanic machines.

Yet every magical device has a very physical story behind it, a story about all the hands that touched these parts before the sum of them arrived in my hands. Children’s hands in Congolese pit mines, suicidal teenagers’ hands in Chinese factories.

The Internet itself comes to us not only through the masterminding of engineers, but the hands-on labor of everyday people, as Andrew Blum reminds us here:

Most of the humans I know are born, live, and die in captivity. We don’t know how our technology works but we would not survive without it. Drop me in the wilderness alone and without a cell phone and my chances for survival are slim.

But add 50 people, still without cell phones, and my chances rise. We are smarter together (though we are also capable of doing terrible things to one another).

Extra credit reading: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/7277

“Why do we always lose our childlike faith/ the moment we attain our childhood dream?” A song about aging, moving west, failure that heals and progress that kills. And some other stuff I’m not sure about . . .

 

 

Take this song and shove it if you want to

Take this tune and turn it out of doors

These words are just a caffeinated frenzy

Scribbled on the napkin of your soul

 

I used to be a ballerina poet

Dancing through a rainbow-colored world

Now I dig for water in the desert

Jump for joy each time the thunder rolls

 

Oooh, I’m taking everything slow.

Oooh, how slow, how low can I go?

 

I rode out west to chase the infinite sunset

To swallow ghost towns whole inside my heart

To lose my old religion in the canyons

But morning always catches up with me

 

Oooh, I’m taking everything slow.

Oooh, how slow, how low can I go?

 

Hold that thought close to your unblinking mind

Watch how it withers right there on the vine

 

They’re taking applications for a mystery

They’re ticking off a transcendental(bucket)(l)ist

With wrecking balls and shopping malls to heal us

And freeways to escape our burned-out past

 

Remember when you couldn’t wait to grow up

To live your life exactly as you pleased?

Why do we always lose our childlike faith

The moment we attain our childhood dream?

 

Oooh, I’m taking everything slow.

Oooh, how slow, how low can I go?

 

This Lent I am fasting from Facebook. The very first day of not browsing the news feed noticeably quieted my spirit, ironically widened my world.

I miss everyday photos and adorable moments from the lives of my brother’s children. I miss interesting thoughts and news from my friends and family who live all over the world.

But here are some things I don’t miss (things I didn’t even realize were part of my Facebook experience until I shut it off for a while): the urgency to form and express an opinion about each day’s big controversy. The concern to appropriately “like” or respond to comments people make on my posts, so no one feels ignored or left out. The compulsion to snap a photo or record the daily minutiae of my life.

In short, I feel less like a performer on a virtual stage and more like a living breathing person, free to think my own thoughts, spend my own time, in the peace and quiet of my own physical world. My mind feels more expansive, less bogged down with processing all the bits and bytes streaming through it as I scroll the news feed.

My Facebook fast coincides with my reading of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I had heard a lot about this book, watched her TED Talk, figured I got the gist of it. But when the e-book went on sale for $2.99 while I was at a conference and burned out on interacting with people, I snatched it up.

I’ve known for years that I am an introvert, but this book pushes beyond basic identification, to affirmation, even normalization – of people like me. Not only is there an explanation for my love of solitude, my consistent mode of taking a long time to build friendships and not feeling a need for lots of social interaction – even my tendency to jump at loud noises, my lower threshold for disturbing smells and the way a poem or song or painting can emotionally knock me out – but Cain shows that this is completely normal for a good percentage of the population. It’s not something I need to fix in order to become a legitimate person.

Dear Facebook friends, I’ll be back, but with a more deliberate perspective after this fast. And I am not judging anyone else’s social media use. Simply noticing that for me, a confirmed introvert and highly sensitive person, too much social interaction (even virtual!) and everyday buzz interferes with me being my best self, and doing my best work.

*Note: You may be reading this post through a link you found on Facebook. That’s because my blog automatically displays new posts on my Facebook wall. So, if you comment about this post on Facebook, you’ll understand if I don’t respond, right? :)

I wander my past some nights

While I wait for sleep.

Someone I read recently said that our frontal lobe or pre-frontal cortex or some such brain part

Is a time machine

But he was referring to our human capacity to anticipate

Make a plan

Dream a dream

And live it in the mind’s eye.

I must use another brain part

To go back and relive

Though I never go back in factuality.

It doesn’t matter that I don’t see what I’m wearing

I know I am twenty-seven

Pregnant

And a brand-new feminist

Waiting for him in a Florida hotel room.

I know he will take me sailing

Then we will dine on seafood.

I can see myself but I don’t see what I’m wearing

I can look out from behind my eyes

But the everyday details

Have all escaped me.

My man and I have been through a lot together. Including a hands-off, touch-less pre-marital relationship.

Sixteen years later, we’re still living with the consequences of our choices.

Oh yes. I know, that sort of talk usually refers to the choice of “too much, too soon,” and I don’t disagree that we live in a hyper-sexualized culture. But for some of us, more needs to be said about the dangers of overly-prohibitive romances.

Nathan and I fell in love over our guitars. My first memory of him is a long-haired, earring-bedecked, goatee-trimmed Minnesota boy lazily strumming a guitar, sitting at the church missions fair behind his booth about his recent travels in Romania. I was hooked. He doesn’t remember much about the first time he met me, but he says he fell hard for me when I pulled out my guitar and sang a song I had recently written.

The summer of ’96 was one long conversation, deep into the night, punctuated with music and, I assume, eating and sleeping too.

But not touching. We had both been in previous relationships with a strong core of making out, and, doing our best to protect ourselves and one another from the dangers of sexual sin, about which we had heard plenty throughout our years in church youth groups, we agreed to a hands-off policy.

No, really. Hands-off. In premarital counseling with our pastor, when the subject of sex came up and he somehow discovered that we didn’t even hold hands, he looked concerned. He said something about light switches and wedding nights, akin to the idea of 0-60 in 10 seconds flat, and that maybe this wasn’t the healthiest way to go about building a marriage.

Considering his advice, we agreed to hold hands before our wedding.

The big day came, and soon enough, that first kiss. Of which I remember hardly anything. Shy and public are good descriptors. Hundreds of people observed this model couple’s first kiss, and I’m sad to say that we heard from more than one family afterwards, how our kissing decision was held up as a standard for their own children.

Listen, kids. Life is a struggle. We try things and fail, then try again, and sometimes we succeed. But always we grow, if we are willing to. That includes the decision my love and I made about touching each other. We have grown. But because we chose not to touch before our wedding, even while building profoundly deep emotional and cerebral bonds, we’ve had a little trouble connecting our sex life with the rest of our relationship.

The first few months, we were the stereotypical 1950′s newlyweds, exploring and enjoying sex like hungry adolescents. But if sex has been forbidden for most of your life, especially if you are a girl and are told you are responsible for protecting boys from temptation, then you can’t just jump right into it one day and feel that everything is good now. A subtle sense of self-loathing built up in me, which I began to vent by verbally abusing my husband, along with petty arguments, dramatic cry-fests over small disagreements, all of which seemed to come from a basic feeling that I was not lovable.

I wonder if a woman who has been told that sex makes her dirty, premarital sex makes her “damaged goods,” feels some sense of that consequence even after she has supposedly done everything right, secured the marriage license and kept all the rules.

And maybe it isn’t any easier for those couples who did kiss or – gasp – go further before their wedding, but felt compelled to hide this part of their relationship from that same church-induced sense of shame.

(And I am only beginning to listen to – and still far from truly understanding – the pain and shame heaped on anyone identifying beyond assumed heterosexual norms who grew up in church youth groups like mine.)

“It is not good for the [hu]man to be alone.” That’s fundamentally what sex is about – companionship, partnership, intimacy. As we parent our children, as we encourage the young ones – and really, everyone – in our midst, we must give one another space and grace to fail and grow in our reaching out for companionship, partnership, intimacy.

Go on. Kiss him. I’m talking to you, woman married twenty years who still habitually fends off the “temptation” to touch your husband.

A rough draft of this post has been in my drafts folder for nearly two months. Thanks to TC Larson for posting on this topic today and inspiring me to do the same.

February

Love your enemies. Even the month of February.

 

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