Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

I recently got my first Smart Phone, a development that stunned my friends, some of whom thought I’d never get one. I didn’t really even decide to get a Smart Phone; my cell phone plan expired, and I was eligible for an upgrade. I’m certainly not a Luddite, so I’ll take any upgrade available. The phone is nice, certainly new and shiny. I am still determining how it works, and suppose I will be for some time. However, I never expect technology to “change” my life; at best, new technology might be able to provide tools to simplify tasks and augment human capacity (of course, technology has been known to serve the opposite purposes, too).

I like my Smart Phone just fine, and the newness of it means that the camera performs better than the digital one I’ve had for at least a decade. When comparing Smart Phones before purchasing one, I prioritized the authenticitycamera because I love taking what I call “Fun Family Photos,” posting the best online, and printing out the truly great ones to fill magnetic frames on my refrigerator or to give as gifts to friends and family. For as many pictures as there are online, the scarcity of printed photos seems rather odd, and I do my best to preserve the tradition of displaying pictures of loved ones in my home. New technology does not require abandoning old ways.

I don’t invest much time or money in technology. There are two primary causes for this peculiar behavior. First of all, I don’t have much discretionary income. If you’ve been told that academia is overflowing with high salaries and annual bonuses, you were misinformed. Thus, in large part, the small number of technological devices I own stems from a lack of purchasing power, and also a desire to use my limited funds for things I consider more valuable, typically travel and visits with friends.

More fundamentally, I don’t gain much from the time I spend online. In the essay “Is There a There in Cyberspace,” John Perry Barlow addresses the often unmentioned limitations of the online world: “missing entirely, [are things] like body language, sex, death, tone of voice, clothing, beauty (or homeliness), weather, violence, vegetation, wildlife, pets, architecture, music, smells, sunlight, and that ol’ harvest moon. In short, most of the things that make my life real to me.” Interacting with people, for all their messiness and complications, is central to my well-being, and my relationship to the natural world informs a spiritual awareness of my place in the universe. Authentic experiences are my priority.

I like to limit my screen time, essentially because I’d rather be doing something else. I use Facebook, but not every day, and usually with the intention of maintaining and developing connections with the people in my life. I update my status to share the highlights of life with people who care. This is not to say that the way I use Facebook, or technology as a whole, is the “right” way and everyone else has it wrong; rather, it is the right balance for me. The brilliant Sherry Turkle, founder of MIT’s “Initiative on Technology and Self” and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other has proffered the notion of a “digital diet,” which involves taking an honest assessment of the amount of technology that might be reasonable in each particular life. Naturally, a computer programmer ought to expect to spend a lot of time in front of a computer while a forest ranger should anticipate spending far less, though still some. For the most part, I need only spend time in front of a computer at work, thus alleviating the necessity for a home computer.

screenjail(1)My concerns about the excessive use of technology arise primarily from the amount of time my students spend texting friends, checking social media, and browsing images online, all while they are supposed to be paying attention in class. Again, I am not suggesting that these activities in themselves are wrong, but the pervasiveness of the behaviors troubles me. Many of my students simply don’t seem capable of turning away from their devices. When I am in class teaching, my phone is always off, locked in my desk. Naturally, I have plenty of friends I could contact, but what I can do and what I should do are different things, a reality of adulthood that an over-reliance on technology tends to undermine. In class, I need to focus on the lesson, the students, the time and space we have together, and what we can accomplish together. I use technology in the classroom, but in a way that supports our joint purpose: to develop intellectual capacity. I’m also a proponent of online course materials because printing out copies of a ten-page syllabus isn’t necessary. However, I absolutely believe that paying attention to the people who populate our world (classmates, colleagues, neighbors, and family) is a fundamental human activity. We must not allow technology to distract us from the people in our midst.

When I see my students (or friends, or myself) turning to online social networks or texting to fill a void, I sense the vibrations of a wordless cry for help, subliminally broadcasting the central human need for connection, but in a dissociative way. “Entertain me, distract me,” we beg of our machines, oftentimes because engaging with what is in front of us, be it people or problems, requires more effort and investment. See Louis CK’s insightful and heart-rending rant. Sadly, technology can facilitate a turning away from one another, making us all feel more alone.

I try to resist the technology trap. I seek to be a constructive, critical user of advanced technology, endeavoring to master technological skills that can enhance my professional and personal life and support my relationships, never permitting technology to master me.

By Tricia Lunt, English Faculty.

Well, not quite. Stacy is not yet 40. I am headed to celebrate with her, the “youngest” amongst us, in Columbus over Labor Day weekend. Like the youngest in every group, she never lets us forget. I should know; I am the youngest of my siblings, so even though I am not young, per se, I am the youngest, which is still something.

Although I am no longer young, I still feel rather youthful, and I certainly don’t miss youth. So much worry: anxiety and naiveté all wrapped in uncertainty. I do miss the notion of infinite possibility—where would life take me, I wondered? With age, possibilities narrow. Some possibilities are still within reach, some aren’t. “And so it goes,” said Vonnegut. 

As far as getting older is concerned, I tend to hold to the maxim of “it sure beats the alternative.” One of the many wonderful things about aging is the legacy of love shared with others. Many people have been my friends for more than half of my life. My “high school” friends, all of whom I have known since I was 16 (or even earlier), and I have shared tremendous things—a group of us actually went along on Jenny & Brent’s honeymoon trip from Munich up the Rhine via riverboat to Amsterdam! We’ve celebrated accomplishments large and small. More importantly, we were there.

photo (1) 

Memories do not conform to the laws of physics: moments feel like a bazillion years ago and yesterday in the same instant. I recently discovered a photo that I thought no longer existed. It is a picture of Stacy and me; we are 17 in the photo. 23 years have passed, quite impossibly, quite miraculously.

Even if the picture had not reemerged, I would have remembered the moment. The photo is evidence of a particular moment. Countless others went unrecorded, but remain the foundation of over 20 years of friendship. Consider those statistical breakdowns performed to measure how people occupy their time. You know the ones that reveal terrifying truths like the average American spends 34 hours per week watching TV (seriously! My guess was 18) I shall now endeavor to quite unscientifically quantify the time spent with my high school friends, all of whom I still see as often as possible and torment with even more frequency.

Knowing what I know, speculating and hoping and looking back with my most sentimental vision, I’d suggest this might be a fairly accurate representation.

 

Talking in person                                                                     3 years

Talking on the phone                                                              6 months

Smoking (we’ve nearly all quit)                                              3 months

Mocking each other                                                                3 years

Arguing                                                                                   3 days

Texting                                                                                    1 month

Communicating via Facebook                                                2 months

Communicating via email                                                       6 months

Mocking each other via text, Facebook, or email                   1 year

Going out for Dinner                                                              6 months

Meeting for drinks                                                                  2 years

Spending the night                                                                  1 month

Morning breakfasts at Bitchin’ Kitchen                                  1 month

Having breakfast in each other’s kitchens                              1 month

Watching movies                                                                    1 month

Taking walks                                                                           1 month

Driving around                                                                        6 months

Singing along                                                                          1 year

Road trips                                                                               2 weeks

Spring Breaking in Florida (compulsory for Ohioans)            1 week

Vacationing                                                                             1 month

Tailgating at Ohio State                                                          4 months

Attending Loser Bowls (Browns’ football games)                 4 days

Personalizing t-shirts and hats with inside jokes                    3 days

Acoustic guitar sets                                                                 1 week

Good concerts                                                                         1 week

Bad concerts                                                                           1 month

Bonfire parties                                                                                    6 months

Birthday parties                                                                      2 years

Costume parties                                                                      1 year

Graduation parties                                                                  1 year

Wedding Parties                                                                     6 months

Baby Congratulations                                                             1 month

Divorce parties                                                                        2 days

Contemplating Life’s Great Mysteries                                   the remainder +1

 

Here’s to looking forward to another 23 years, and another.

By Paul Gaszak, English Faculty

I sat in my car looking out through the chain-link fence that separated the student parking lot from the university’s airfield. A small plane came in low overhead, cutting through the spring air to land on the runway. The first time I saw this happen LU Planesthree years earlier, it seemed exciting and vaguely dangerous. But after a few years of attending a college with an Aviation major, the planes were like pigeons I could mindlessly stare at from a park bench while thinking.

I just got off the phone with a girl from one of my classes with whom I’d gone on a couple dates. I asked if she wanted to get together again, and I got the “I’d love to but I’m busy between now and…forever” brush-off. Truthfully, I wasn’t all that interested in her. She was my attempt at a rebound, but the rebound just dropped out of bounds.

This left me time to think about the relationship I was trying to rebound from, which was the two-years I spent with my “first true love” that ended a few months earlier on Christmas Eve, when she came over to give me my Christmas present and say goodbye. I hid that present in my closet for months without opening it, as if preserving it would keep the relationship alive in some small way. When I finally opened it, it was a t-shirt of Grumpy from Snow White. Any friends and students reading this may think, “Grumpy? That doesn’t seem accurate for Paul’s personality.” Meanwhile, any ex-girlfriend reading this is saying, “Ha!”

Sitting in the car, feeling desperate and lost, I called my only brother. I had never turned to him for relationship advice before, even though he is nearly nine years my elder. Our conversations always stayed within certain boundaries: movies, music, games, sports. This was uncharted territory for us.

I spewed to him everything that was stirring around in my whiney, youthful, achey-breaky heart, about how she was “the one” and how I would never recover from all the pain I was feeling. He listened attentively (rare for him) and then said something rather perspicacious (even rarer): “It will get better. The pain will fade over time and you will be able to focus on the good memories.”

Of course, at the time I thought that was crap, as I continued to moan about how life as I knew it was over, how I’d be alone forever, and how I’d have to seek companionship by either buying a dog or cloning myself.

However, it turns out he was right. Sure, it was difficult in the short term, as with all breakups. But by the end of the semester, I was playfully running around Brookfield Zoo during a rainstorm, hand-in-hand with my new girlfriend. The next chapter of my life had begun.

Gradually, all the hurt of the previous breakup slipped away, all the pain we caused each other in our relationship vanished, and all that was left behind was a mental scrapbook of our fondest memories.

If there are fairytale romances, this eventually grew into a fairytale breakup for me: we weren’t together, we didn’t want each other, we moved on with our lives, and I got to keep the good memories.

For a while, the outcome of my fairytale breakup made me overvalue my brother’s words of wisdom. In my youthful inexperience, I believed mine was the normal resolution for a serious breakup: bleed for a bit, then heal with no visible scar.

Years later, I’ve now been through more relationships, and watched as many friends have dealt with their own relationships, and this obvious realization became apparent: sometimes the bad memories refuse to slip away, and they linger like boxers landing solid shots to the brain and heart. Not all bad memories will go down without a fight. And others wobble but they don’t fall down.

But – what if there was a way to selectively eliminate these little ruffians from the mind? That very solution has been presented in literature and film, creatively leading to self-examination on some very interesting questions….

(To be continued in Part 2)