Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yesterday I had another experience with what I call the depersonalization of our lives. In other words, I had occasion to try getting information via machines, namely, the computer and the telephone. I wanted to find out how to get from here to there via bus. I tried getting the information by means of the internet first. I thought the task was a simple one, consisting of a series of brief statements and questions:

I live in X. I want to go to Y. Can your bus take me there? Where can I board it? At what times? How much does it cost? Simple.

I tried to get the answers to my questions, but to no avail. I found a web site filled with beautifully constructed pages complete with voluminous information that eventually led me nowhere. I spent about a half hour at that endeavor and gave up. I did get a telephone number. Good, I thought. I’ll try that. Alas, the telephone led me to menus containing lists of questions to which I did not care to know the answers. I gave up there, too, but only temporarily. I rested, took care of other tasks and then, fortified with rest and a cup of coffee, reentered the fray. I again attacked the lists and I persisted. I eventually got the information I needed—from a person. Actually, two people, for I found that two separate bus companies were involved in this endeavor.

I don’t do well getting information from machines. I’m aware that all machines are programmed by people. Machines, therefore, should dispense information in much the same way people do—right? It doesn’t seem to work that way. Perhaps there is something built into machines that automatically distorts the reasoning power of people. That’s one possibility. Another is that the people who program machines do not think like most people. Perhaps they are a breed apart and have become conditioned to think like machines or do so naturally. For these reasons the method for getting information might already be corrupted before it gets into the machine.

I’ve put some thought to this and come up with a line of reasoning. We live in an age in which we have a plethora of information, much of it generated by machines and more, it seems, than we can successfully handle. We are trying to solve that difficulty in the most efficient ways we can find. Hence the use of machines. In the process we have become enamored with the prospect of successfully handling information and with the machines themselves. As a result, the handling of information has become more important than the people for whom it is being handled. People are out; machines are in. And so we have the depersonalization of our lives. Is that an improvement?

There is another possibility and that is that I just don’t think like most people. Anyway, I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply don’t think like a machine. Maybe in time I will. Maybe that will solve my problem.

Monday, September 17, 2012

I’ve developed some new sleeping habits lately. For some reason I do not fathom, I sleep about four hours or so at a stretch and then wake up. When that first happened, I lay in bed and tried to go back to sleep. For days I tried that approach. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Then, when I woke up in the middle of the night, I began getting up and doing various tasks—finishing some writing, perhaps starting something new or working on a mundane task such as balancing my checkbook. That seemed to work better. I got valuable things done and simple tasks completed, felt much better about the world and was able to go back to sleep.

There turned out to be another fringe benefit—better internet access. A month and a half or so ago I obtained a new method of accessing the internet, by means of a compact little device that worked off towers such as are used by cell phones. Turn the device on, let it locate signals from a tower and—voila!—internet accomplished. There’s only one drawback. The tower signal where I live is weak; that results in a slow computer, often disgustingly slow. However I found out that the signal strength is greatly improved in the wee hours of the morning. I’m not sure whether that’s due to some technical details having to do with atmospheric conditions at night or simply because fewer people are on the internet at three o’clock in the morning. I really don’t care what the reason is. I’m usually up at that time, the internet’s better, problem solved.

It’s funny how things work out if one lets them. I could have gone to the doctor to solve my sleep problem or gone out and bought some over-the-counter sleeping pills and never discovered the answer to my internet problem. Serendipity, I believe it’s called. Yet I still have an unsolved problem, that of rearranging my daily schedule. I used to rise at seven o’clock or so, but now, with my work period wedged into the middle of the night, it’s some time around nine thirty before I get up. Well, no worry. One thing at a time. Perhaps it will work out serendipitously.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It’s September. In fact, it’s getting on to the middle of September. Soon summer will be over. When I was a boy that was a cause for regret. But then, that regret probably had more to do with the beginning of school than the end of summer and that unfortunate happening occurred around the first of September rather than the twentieth.

I suppose that’s the heart of the matter. One’s attitude for or against a season has more to do with one’s perception of what that season is rather that what it is in actuality. That, in turn, is based on any number of things, past experience being one. It reminds me of the story of a boy from a southern state who was inducted into the military and sent to a northern state for training. His first letters home were poetically eloquent in describing his initial experience with snow—glistening flakes that gently descended, covering the ground with a shimmering, gleaming blanket. After a few weeks, he wrote home to inform his family that it was still snowing and there was now three feet of the damn stuff.

The coming seasons bring to my mind unpleasant days of cold and snow but I am aware that they bring their own brand of beauty and unique experiences. I may well treasure those in future times just as I now treasure happenings from past cold seasons. It is all a matter of perception for that is the way we experience and remember life.

I think that’s the key to enjoying not only seasons, but life itself. It’s not what we experience as much as how we experience it that causes us problems, and how we experience is something that is directly under our control. It’s due to our own perception, attitudes and prejudices. Let go of those preconceived notions and here is no reason to fear or look with displeasure on any season. We can enjoy them all. We can enjoy every day. Why not? That’s what they’re there for.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The time of cool nights has come. For the last week or so I’ve been able to sleep bundled up as for winter. I’ve done that—opened the windows, let the cool air of night in and snuggled down in a pile of blankets to enjoy a toasty nap. It’s such a relief from hot weather and hot nights.

A few months from now I will no doubt find these same night time temperatures uncomfortable. It will be too cold for me and I will nudge the thermostat up a bit and with satisfaction hear the furnace kick in during the wee hours of the morning. I have a mindset that is somehow regulated by seasonal temperatures. In the winter I want to be warmer. In the summer I want to be cooler. Sometimes that has little to do with the actual temperature.

I wonder about that. I am very subject to mindset—the perception I have of reality. I suppose I am typical in that, probably more normal than not. In a sense we create our individual reality by what we think. That is an interesting concept and one that has even more interesting ramifications. How real are our lives? How easily can we misinterpret actual conditions, a situation, an occurrence, another’s motive or feelings? After having done so, how far do we go in acting on those unreal assumptions? From another aspect, how sensitive are we to suggestion? With the proper stimulus can we be programmed to change our very existence?

There are many examples in history in which a group of people, even a nation, has fallen under the control of a leader or an ideology that has not been for their benefit. We like to think of such things happening “some place else.” But does it only occur that far afield? The technique has been made use of in many ways in our society, ways that are considered good for the economy. We are taught to want certain things, fear others. That practice sells a variety of merchandise and services from automobiles to insurance. It is also present in many places—industry, advertising, leisure, politics—even religion.

We are manipulated for profit. Somebody’s. That is a fact. What each of us has to do is figure out, for each case, who is doing the manipulating and why.