I confess. I’ve been cheating on you. Mostly with Dostoevsky’s Karamazov boys, but The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard (a 2nd time round) and Culture Making by Andy Crouch have also stolen my affections.
I won’t lie, it’s been great.
After my sister and toddling nephew left, I spent several days trying to remember how my daily life goes, then several more remembering that I agreed to said daily life. And after that? I began watering my parched literary bones. Only, since opening the watershed, the gates have been impossible to close.
Blogging isn’t the only thing to have suffered in the wake of my literary affairs, however it’s the only thing I feel any remorse over. My online time in total has taken a drastic hit—less facebook, link-clicking, and virtually no twitter. Internet browsing (especially on Amazon) is at an all time Shari Dragovich low. The largest block of time I recently mustered online was the 15 minutes it took me to delete nearly 3,000 email messages from my inbox—that would be almost four year’s worth. Embarrassing, but true.
And the payoff? My thoughts have been less scattered. I have more capacity to attend fully to one thing at a time, rather than be distracted by the ding of my phone or this weird impulse I’ve developed of checking email and facebook every fifteen minutes. My conversations with Superman have had a richer flavor to them (it helps that he’s already read The Brothers Karamozov). I’ve noticed I’m more content with myself and the winding life-path I’m taking this side of forever. I haven’t been comparing myself as much to others—other women, other mothers, other homeschoolers, other writers, other crossfitters—a bad habit to say the least; a contentment and peace killer, for sure.
In one of my affair books, Culture Making, author Andy Crouch suggests that when we are creating and cultivating culture—or being “gardeners and artists” as he calls it—we are acting as true “image bearers,” that is, behaving in a way most true to how we were created—in the image of God. He also goes through a lengthy discussion of showing how Christians, who should be the best at image bearing, have fallen desperately short. Instead we’ve taken to condemning, critiquing, consuming and copying culture. Each of these “gestures” as Crouch calls them is not bad bad per say and even quite necessary in response to particular cultural goods, but when the “gesture” becomes a “posture”—the way bending over a keyboard at one’s desk turns into a perpetual slumped back and saggy shoulders—our capacity to create and make something of the world we’ve been given becomes severely limited. It may even deteriorate all together.
I think this may be why I feel so gross when I spend too much time online. I end up filling my mind with critiques of culture or consuming culture, or comparing myself to what ultimately amounts to a lot of copy-cats of culture. And none of these things helps me be a better gardener or artist. My creativity becomes seriously limited. My capacity to make something new of my world narrows to nearly non-existent.
But, I know there are places online that are quite lovely. I enjoy (not often enough) a poetry site that feeds my creativity. And I would never want to venture back to the Dark Ages before Pinterest or Houzz—though I’ve heard there are women who browse these sites (especially Pinterest) and then feel inadequate about their own lives.
And maybe that’s insight, too. Maybe I am allowing myself to feel inadequate just like the women who rant about Pinterest—of course I am!—it’s not the internet’s fault at all.
Still…I’m noticing. It’s easy—at least it is for me—to be sucked into the vortex of culture criticizing, copying, condemning, and consuming, which inevitably leads me into self criticizing, copying, consuming and yes, even sometimes self-condemning. My “gesture” towards the internet needs to remain just that—a “gesture;” an occasional social nod, a resource, and sometimes even an inspiration. But if I notice it is becoming a “posture,” maybe I need to seriously consider the old wisdom of, “if your hand causes you to sin…”
And above all…when gifted with a smidgen of time not already spoken for by my family, friends (the three-dimensional ones), daily chores (those demanding immediate attention), or my own version of making culture (writing, sketching, piano-playing), may I always choose to indulge my literary affair over being sucked into time online.
Just out of curiosity…how does extended internet time affect you? How do you spend your time online? Any suggestions for places to visit that stir the imagination, tend toward the creative side of things, inspire you to make culture rather than condemn, criticize, copy, or consume it?