As you’re probably aware, I’ve started shedding unnecessary parts of my life, starting with aspects of my Facebook account. Obsolete political page after useless page and Mafia Wars-only “friend” after chiro-evangelistic marketing “friend”, the stats are piling and the sellable content is dwindling.
As you’re also probably aware, it felt. Damn. Good. I felt lighter, freer, more personified and less constrained. Bit by bit, I took parts of my life back and reclaimed my sovereignty, not to mention gobs of spare time.
In fact, it felt so sublimely good that I look forward to tomorrow not only because it’s 1) Monday and I love what I do and 2) another chance to contribute toward our income, but also because 3) I have another opportunity to simplify my life and reacquire some space and perhaps a little more sanity. I’ve got tidbits people have dropped off, such as health-related newspaper articles (those will be saved and probably aggregated into a binder collection), test kits from lab companies whose science and methods I question and will thus not be using any time soon, notes from classes and seminars, spare copies of paperwork (or partial packets), health class notes of talks I’ve given, and a whack of odds and ends being stored in the PT room. I also have office supplies, binder supplies, and things that need filing, like file checklists and copies of lab test results.
And then, I reckon the final frontier will be the apartment. We did our best to comb through everything before moving last year, but I’m sure we’ve got duplicate movies and I KNOW we’ve got old glossy magazines and back-issues of The Current laying around. I’m not yet ready to tackle the apartment, at least not yet, because part of that also entails organizing an mp3 collection that has been left relatively-unattended for the past year, always growing but not having been organized, and that’s been held up by its rate-limiting step: the computer situation. I reckon maybe after I accumulate some inertia and self-initiative by addressing the more-manageable office, the apartment project won’t seem so insurmountable.
I look forward to that experience, though. As daunting as it is, I remember the tiny taste of absolute freedom, suspended in sheer weightlessness, as I dumped byte after byte of Facebook data. I remember the glee that automatically came bundled as a welcome side-effect of feeling so much more simple, like my life was mine again.
And so I wonder, is THIS what Zen is all about, at least on a small scale? Sure, scaling Facebook back isn’t exactly Nirvana (no, that would be giving up Facebook altogether, a step that for reasons I’ve mentioned before, I probably won’t be ready to make for a long time). But effortlessly deriving joy from simplicity and renouncing aspects of life, could that be a small representative nugget of what this whole Zen thing and all of its positive press is all about?
Clutter bogs us down, trapping and enslaving us. We become not-ourselves. We get all complicated and we lose sight of what’s important. Our priorities invert. We surround ourselves with the electronic impression that we’re being “sociable” when really we’re only further isolating ourselves with each passing day, the tipping point being when we pass up opportunities to spend time with friends in person because we’re simply more comfortable interacting with their online essence from the comfort of the couch (guilty!).
But it happens on a grander scale then that. As we collect and complicate, our souls become imprisoned, much like on Hoarders. This happens inside and out, although the outward manifestation may not appear as dire a situation as we see on said cable show. Instead, our houses, cars, and indeed very LIVES take on additional clutter. With varying degrees of importance and significance in our lives yet occupying the visual field just the same, clutter begins to suck at our souls as we are forced to spend equal amounts of time processing that which is important right alongside that which is less so. In the process, our ability to assign proper priority dulls and we lose sight of what’s actually important in life. The most dramatic end manifestation of this has already happened, whether in the form of people who become trapped in mounds of clutter decades old without any hope of recovery without serious intervention, or the woman who neglected her young child to death while she played FarmVille on Facebook. Something, somewhere, has got to give.
And so it starts with each of us. It’s up to each of us to seek to reunite with that simplicity, that humanness (“humanity” doesn’t fit 100%), that weightlessness. It’s time NOT to be tethered to up-to-the-minute play-by-plays of 500 friends of varying importance. Spring has already arrived in San Antonio and while it’s less exciting to simply walk out in the sun and look up at the sky without visiting links or checking out published stories on your News Feed, it’s certainly more fulfilling, even if you don’t realize that until the end of the day. A sunny day with trees and a loved one is far more miraculous than an HTML script (and a bad one at that). If social networking went away, people would notice and some would be devastated, but in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t even register a blip. If the sun or clouds went away, or suddenly you couldn’t take that afternoon walk, however, the ramifications would be far more lasting.
So appreciate what you have. Social networking (and other forms of clutter) are not Enemy No. 1 or otherwise evil. They serve a purpose, and it’s a useful one. However, we often place them higher on the priority list than they should ever be allowed, and often at the expense of priorities that should rightfully claim the top slots. We often don’t realize how much control these less-important aspects of life exert, nor how significant an impact their slow encroachment on (and erosion of) our lives can be, until it is too late.
I blog, I’m on Facebook, I’m on Twitter, and I’m on LinkedIn. I follow the blogs of several other people (shown to the right). However, it’s not my life. Social networking overstepped its bounds a little and overstayed its welcome and now that I’m no longer mesmerized by the games and the apps and the constant guilty obligations to send hearts back to well-meaning friends who’ve saddled me with them, I can see clearly what real life is like on the other side, that Real Life that happens while we’re all just watching it on the internet.
And for the first time in a while, I’m even looking forward to “cleaning my room”.