While there are so many benefits to and efficiencies brought through the use of our screen technologies, I am often struck by the things that are being lost. Sometimes what’s going missing comes in the form of the really big and more readily identifiable as important things in our lives; obvious losses that are more easily apparent. Ones that we would want to be on the lookout for. At other times, though, it comes in the form of seemingly insignificant things and ways of being, that while subtle, actually add up to much greater losses than what we might initially imagine.
Lately for me, this reveals itself in the simple and dependable form of a dictionary.
Because I write every week, I run into my dictionary on a regular basis, along with its invaluable counterpart, the thesaurus. I know I could do all of this online. I know I could save myself “the trouble” of getting up; choosing instead to sit un-moving in front of a screen. I know that it might appear to someone else as inconvenient, too effortful or old- fashioned to do something by hand that the computer could take care of. That perhaps my choice would appear as unnecessary from a modern technological standpoint.
But in the nitty-gritty of what it feels like to be me in my life, I find that I actually do not care about any of the rational reasons around this. Why? Because I know something else to be true. And that something else is that the use of these two amazing books gives back and feeds me in ways that no device ever could.
I love the fact that I have to get up to go get either or both of these two inspiring writing companions. I love opening the door to the cabinet where they live. It feels as if I am going to visit wise and trusted friends who sit patiently waiting to offer their help as I need it. And while the distance to the cabinet is a mere few feet from where I sit, I love the chance to stand up, stretch, and move my way over to what I need; getting back into my body by getting upright, bending over, getting upright again, and then remaining standing while I look something up.
I love the way that my mind needs to change gears as I sort through the letters and their particular order to get to the specific word that I am looking for. And then once finding the word, slowing down in my thoughts and movements as I pause and ponder over what I am looking at. All of those possibilities there for the choosing. All of those definitions and interpretations that will assist me in clarifying and enriching what it is that I really want to say. While I am doing all of this, it is not lost on me that as I wonder and integrate what it is that I am reading I just feel differently than I do when I read off of a screen. Better somehow, in all ways. (Not to mention the side benefit to my eyes which naturally soften and relax back as I switch from the screen with all of its light and intensity, to the soft and powerful written word on a page.)
And then there is the love for the feel, and especially the weight, of each of the books; a kind of intimacy brought through the physical holding of the content at hand. A satisfying experience of turning pages, and a visceral reminder for me of being in a body. A shared encounter between me and this body of work. An experience of being with, as opposed to sitting in front of. An experience of a deep and quiet exchange as opposed to the feeling of being in the midst of a loud and unruly crowd.
This experience always serves to remind me that I am, in fact, embodied; immediately changing me from the one who is hunched over and robotically pecking away, to the one who stands in herself and holds something vast and significant in her hands. Weirdly enough, I even love the old book smell. I love knowing that these texts have been around for a very long time, and that other people that I am connected with have held and used these books in the past. Just as I am doing now.
Most of all, I always feel more myself when I am done. More in my body. More slowed down. More me. And sometimes I even get the added benefit of being taken on a ride, a flight of fancy, into unknown places as my eye catches other words along the way that teach, inspire, connect, inform, and sometimes even offer the most astonishing of synchronicities.
Truly, I cannot imagine writing without these books. I cannot imagine risking the loss of not only all that they give me in any given moment, but also all that they represent. As in, a most exquisite and quintessentially human experience of being alive.
Isn’t this all exactly the point here? To find ways, in our own way, to stay human in the midst of all of this? To be the ones who decide what gets to stay and what gets to go? To be the ones who get to choose what things are worth keeping? Not because they make sense through the lens of modern day ease, convenience or progress, but because they just feel good, right somehow, and are therefore, worth keeping.
And so I say, in the spirit of preserving what is truly worth keeping, isn’t being in the daily weight and feel of our own lives one of the most important things we all need to be holding onto?