I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution before, but I’m planning one for 2014. Even though it’s apparently a really awful idea.
Of course some of those guys got busted for plagiarism:
So who knows? Maybe it’s just the history of starting a new year with a promise that we can’t shake? After all, Babylonians and Romans looked to start things anew with every changed calendar. And in medieval times, knights made “peacock vows” of loyalty every year, a tradition later championed by one bored English poet who wrote of knights’ “noble vow”… then swallowed a bottle of acid after making her own wedding vow:
But I’ve chosen to ignore all this and make a 2014 resolution because I’M TIRED
I’m tired of being sold to, I’m tired of social media noise, I’m tired of virtual relationships over ones in person. I’m tired of push-button convenience and instant-gratification short-cuts like Instagram filters and drum beats on GarageBand.
I’m not going all-out analog (or giving up those handy filters). I’m just cutting back on the modern world, by doing these four things:
1. Walk or bike, alone, at least 45 minutes five times a week
Solo travel is the new meditation. In an essay on walking, Robert Louis Stevenson says a walk with company is essentially a picnic. It takes walking alone to find those “certain jolly humours” that can find the walker fully present — not distracted by daily concerns, or social media. It’s the same notion Alexandra Horowitz discusses in “On Looking” (which I’ve not read yet; perhaps I’ll add that to the pile for 2014 too). I often feel these “certain jolly humours” when I’m traveling. I need to feel that more often.
2. Eat analog lunches, ie away from the computer
It’s not just that sandwich crumbs fill those little gray canyons between the black “Chiclet” keys of my laptop that bug me, but that double-duty during work lunches means I’m not really paying attention to that sandwich. Or where my thoughts could go if I gave it a bit of free time.
3. Ignore social media on weekends
Because Twitter for me is chiefly a professional vehicle, I really don’t need to tweet on Saturdays or Sundays, and I’m going to stop doing it when I’m not on the road. That means keeping my phone on me much less too. (This should be easy enough till college football season comes around again.)
4. Take a class on something
The social aspect of going to a class is almost as useful as making yourself learn something. I took photography classes in college, and I wouldn’t mind re-submerging myself in a darkroom. Or learning what “poetry” really is, and why it’s important, or just more on writing. Or all three.
What all this means
These resolutions are steps, “micro-resolutions” for a bigger goal here, if it’s not clear already: simply to become more “present.” Spending less time in the company of links and #campaigns and virtual communities, and more with my immediate (analog, fingernail-dirtying) surroundings. And hopefully with more silence.
It’s not easy. But the reward can be that feeling that travel brings, particularly when we go to places where we turn off cellphones (due to access or roaming charges) and pay attention to simple physical details around us.
So 2014 is where “travel Robert” tries to come home.