As I sit here in the sunny kitchen of my father-in-law’s farmhouse, I’m going through withdrawal because the Internet does not exist here. On a typical morning, I would have checked e-mail (pot), looked at several news screens (cocaine) and read everything in my Facebook (meth) news feed.
My Facebook status would be a no-brainer: blitzed, spaced out, and higher than the summit of Mount Everest. I recall those old, fried-egg-in-a-skillet public service announcements: This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?
Ever addictive, the Internet provides 24/7 instant gratification. Everything is now and now we can trip out anywhere we want from the illusions of You Tube right now to the mirages of web cams. On celestial days, the endless supply of self-evident platitudes on Twitter (hash) empowers us. On tense days, we can discuss causes on Linked-In (ether) or play free-base flame wars in the comments sections of news pages and friends’ profile pages and hope the experience doesn’t turn into the bad trip of being unfriended or banned.
Here on the farm, life is also now, but it’s a slower, less ubiquitous now. I cannot move at light speed from the kitchen table to the creek. There’s no creek icon on the window. While I can randomly hear the sounds of birds and horses and tractors, they are farther away than MP3 files and have no volume controls. Time was, contentment was easy to find in a farm or old forest because when I arrived at such places, my perception synchronized itself with the rhythms of the real world.
Today, the worlds of beach, river and mountain top begin as cold-turkey experiences away from the lovable and addictive noise of radios, televisions, cell phones and WiFi. Real-world taste, touch, hearing, seeing, smell and intuition have become dulled from lack of use. I can’t wrinkle my nose and download a new sight program nor stick out my tongue and update my tastes.
Daily, it takes more and more effort to see and hear the real world, especially the more subtle voices of trees and snakes and flowers. In fact, when I’m high on Facebook, I have my doubts about the existence of pastures outside my father-in-law’s sunny kitchen, much less the cries of gulls along the gulf coast or the songs of wolves in the Montana high country. The Internet will give me a semblance of all that. Truth be told, that semblance is faster and cheaper than walking out my front door and driving six hours south to Alligator Point, Florida, much less three days north by northwest to East Glacier, Montana on the edge of the shining mountains.
If the Internet existed here on the farm, I could experience, semblance-wise, the mountains and the sea right here, right now. I do see flowers blooming in the garden out past the kitchen sink. I remember once knowing what they were and what they smelled like but, without the Internet, I can’t “touch” the flowers’ images and see alt-text tags with that instant information.
The real world has become difficult to navigate and harder to imagine. I’ll be okay when I get back home and smoke a little e-mail and do a little Facebook. I’ll be fine because my brain will once again become part of the Internet and I won’t have any questions.