In the time when she became aware of the world, magazines were text-laden, not image-driven. Pictures to her were paintings, not photographs. Her life wasn't tranquil, there were cataclysmic wars and the Depression, but it was quiet.
Now silence is a luxury; people travel to experience it. Although I live alone and work at home, noise is a constant presence. The sound of jets, buses, street construction, passersby, the apartment-dweller above me who comes back home after the bars close--I never play music anymore and only turn on my television at night for baseball or a movie. Still I live with the constant presence of sound. I wear earplugs to bed and frequently turn on my bathroom fan to create a barrier of white noise.
Mornings have the closest approximation of silence and if I'm careful, my mind is still unrippled then. That's when words come most easily and the work that is truly mine takes place--but only if I ignore the icons on my computer screen. If I let myself click once, the world is with me and the morning becomes sociable. Because I live alone, that one click is perilously seductive.
My computer isn''t just my workspace. It's supplanted letters, the telephone, the daily newspaper, a set of encyclopedia. It's how I stay in touch (on a superficial level) with friends on other continents. It's immediate gratification, an instant cocktail party. It's becoming my memory in a way that frightens me--can't remember? Google it.
I could stop going to the grocery store if I chose to, forgo DVDs for "streaming," have conversations through a social medium. Why not? Already so much of what I used to enjoy comes through this screen. Sometimes I think the only part of my life that can't come through a computer is travel. It's why I yearn for the discomfort of being wedged into an airline seat for hours on end; it's one of the few inevitably raw acts in my life.
I wish someone would bring back the word processor, a glorified typewriter with no accompanying distractions. Without that, I have to learn not to squander the best time of my day by clicking an icon. It will all be there, the photos, the links, the badinage, the Scrabble game, the abbreviated letters, waiting for my tapping finger to bring it into being. But the work won't wait. It fades away with sociability, dissolves into a weird sludge of the mind and spirit if it isn't given voice.
Carrie Fisher once said "The trouble with instant gratification is it takes too long." She said that in the early '90s; today it's as quaint as any sentiment embroidered on a Victorian piece of needlework. Now the trouble with instant gratification is it can strain the muscles in your index fingers.