When everything is happening at once, it’s sometimes hard to determine where to begin? Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you find that you are feeling this way now? A hurricane hits a city and turns it into an island surrounded by water; a Supreme Court justice nominee suddenly becomes mired in reported scandal. A friend of yours suddenly dies and leaves people who are dependent upon this individual to fend for themselves. It’s a lot that is occurring all at the same time.
I recently finished reading the novel “The Circle “by Dave Eggers. Here the world that is described is that of Silicon Valley in the contemporary setting, if not in the near distant future. The main protagonist character, Mae Holland, is a young woman graduate of Carleton College, full of optimism and ambition who now finds herself working for the world’s most desirable company.
Only one problem- Mae discovers over time that there is a gradual more pronounced erosion between the personal and professional sphere. At the digital company, everything is measured in metrics, including one’s social and personal life. There is no such thing as personal space; no such thing as confidentiality. Even that which is most personal and intimate can find its way to becoming a digital feed.
What do you do when you feel like life is a few inches away from being normal? Back in 1999 then Yale Law Professor Jeffrey Rosen in his book “The Unwanted Gaze “talked about the reality of the professional persona, the presentation, the need to always “be on. “Rosen also indicated that there was also the need for the backstage self- the place where one can retreat and feel safe and at rest- not feeling the need to “be on “and to perform. He prophetically observed, at that time, with the growing developments in technology, that there would be more erosion and disappearance between the personal and professional self, and a complete disregard for privacy.
I talked with someone recently who is connected a lot to technology. They are active on social media. They watch a lot of Netflicks and can be known to have several marathon sessions of watching series.
When I mentioned to this person that they could go outside and take a walk, maybe go for a swim, etc,. they looked at me as if this were a novel idea. At the same time, they were able to appreciate that these very activities might help them again to be grounded in real time and experience, here and now, in the environment.
Perhaps, when we can rediscover again the joy and wonder of watching a brilliant sunset, having a great conversation with someone that we care about where we feel that we have been heard and where we also understand the other person, when we smell again the sweet scent of a rose, maybe then the experience we have of “normal “might again return to us and become focused.
Maybe again we can experience “normal “and find it to be extraordinarily satisfying and in the words of T.S. Eliot
“seeing it again as if for the first time. “
May it be so.