Heres one of those news items thats so quirky compared to the spirit of our time that it sounds like an item from News of the Weird or a gag story from The Onion. It appeared in the online newsletter published by ForeWord magazine in Traverse City:
Former Librarian Quits the Internet
The Grayslake Review reports that Jack Hicks, a 69-year-old retiree, has cancelled the Internet. Hicks was the director of Illinois Glenview Public Library, one of the first libraries in the Chicago area to offer free Internet access.
Mainly, its a time-waster. And theres so little time. Why waste it? Hicks said. In retirement, Im interested in real life, not an imitation of life.
At the Express, we now have readers who cant even recall a time when there was no Internet -- it was up and running before they were born. And many of us would be fish out of the water without the sea of information we swim in each day.
But its not hard to understand where Jack Hicks is coming from because increasingly, our lives are twittered away with whats going on online.
Magazines, for instance. Whos got time when youre busy blogging or logged onto Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, slate.com, or any of hundreds of other sites? Soon, youll see the big timber of the magazine world start to fall, victims of the Internet time-waster.
We‘re also raising a generation of kids who spend most of their time indoors, with their only exercise being what they get from prancing around in front of a Wii Nintendo game on a TV set. Theres currently a No Child Left Inside movement taking root in Northern Michigan, trying to explain to parents why its healthy for their kid to actually experience the natural world.
It‘s no wonder we now have the phenomenon of obese four-year-olds.
Those of us who were born long before the digitalization of childhood can recall a time when kids spent as little time as possible indoors. You ran around barefoot outdoors all summer and only came in when your parents yelled themselves hoarse, long after sunset.
Times change and now weve become so indelibly stamped and imprinted with the Internet that it seems like national news when an old-timer like Jack Hicks announces that hes given up our new master.
But Hicks may be onto something, because when you do nothing but waste your time, you also waste your life. When you only know how to play Guitar Hero, youll never know the thrill of playing an actual instrument. When you only know boxing from what you get from a Wii game, youll never know the edge of the real martial arts. When all of your time is taken up Twittering Ashton Kutcher (who‘s dueling with CNN for the most hits) or compulsively texting your friends, you may never experience the soul of a good book.
Then there are the iPod commercials where phony hipsters dance the boogaloo in silhouette with their earbuds on, shut off from the outside world and real experiences.
At what point do we turn into a nation of incompetents who don‘t know how to do anything beyond texting their order in to McDonald‘s?
Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke predicted a time when human knowledge is far advanced thanks to the Internet and artificial intelligence, and yet collectively as shallow as a saucer without any common shared culture. People will have their own sinkholes of expertise without knowing or caring who Shakespeare, George Washington, Susan B. Anthony or Martin Luther King were and why they mattered.
So be it. According to a 2007 survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, only four percent of Americans had dropped the Internet, mostly because they couldnt afford it due to an illness or whatever.
But taking a tip from Jack Hicks, it might be good for the soul to take an annual vacation from your iPod, Internet, cell phone, Twitter, MySpace and all the other electronic strings attached to your life for a week or so if only to reboot your sense of humanity and become a real person once a year.
Build a campfire, write your own song and sing it, dance your ass off, hike 10 miles -- be something that‘s not just part of a machine.
Because, to paraphrase an old saying, what does it profit you if you gain the whole (Internet) world but lose your soul?
Check out Bob Downes & Jim Moore performing ‘The Dinner Show‘ unplugged every Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. at Cuppa Joe Warehouse (behind Right Brain Brewery) in TC.