Life Without Facebook, Week 1

As hard as it might be for you to believe, I’m doing very well outside the walls of the Facebook Kingdom. It is true, I was shocked by the things I found when I looked up from my digital world. There are real trees and birds, babbling brooks and fuzzy squirrels, green grass and fluffy clouds, marching bands and holiday parades, quiet evenings and romantic dinners; all uninterrupted by my former virtual reality. To my amazement,  I learned that there are people living in my neighborhood, around the corner and down the street!  And they will talk to me!

Sadly, there have been a number of people who’ve asked (mostly via electronic methods) why I left Facebook. It’s a hard concept to grasp. However, I am beginning to understand that they seem to care less about my answer than the harsh truth that they “could never” leave the virtual community themselves. They’ve moaned that it is their only connection to people far away. It is their only lifeline beyond the world they live. It is their way of keeping in touch.

My response is simple, “Have you tried picking up the phone?” If Aunt Gertrude is that important to your existence, couldn’t you pick up a phone and ask her how her bursitis is today? Isn’t it just as easy (and perhaps a little more meaningful) to hear her voice as she explains the fall corn harvest, the Sunday church carry-in, or how Uncle Argyle is preparing the house for winter? I suspect it would mean more to her than simply liking the picture of her cat she posted last week.

I know, I’m old fashioned. It’s my generational curse. You see, I grew up in a time when a party-line phone allowed me to listen in on my neighbor’s calls, or know when Grandma Hines was listening in on our calls. We always knew the old woman down the road was listening in because of her emphysema-induced heavy breathing on the line. Ah, good memories.

Look, I’m not trying to return to the technical dark ages. I’m not trying to go back to the good old days shortly before men landed on the moon. But I realized a troubling trend on “The Social Media that Shall Not Be Named”: A person’s page is typically designed to do one of three things.

  1. Show everyone their beautiful family/cute kids/amazing dog or cat (guilty as charged – strike 1)
  2. Show everyone the food they cook/serve/eat (guilty as charged – strike 2)
  3. or Glorify their amazing activities/cars/houses/yards and their great looks. When did duck lips become so popular? (guilty as charged – strike 3)

In short, I’m simply trying to simplify, reconnecting by disconnecting, finding myself by paying less attention to myself.

 

Riding On The Edge

20140930_135100In the summer of 1979, Mr. Reed taught me how to drive.  More importantly, he taught me how to stay on the road.

In Farmland (a real town, not jut a field of corn), we took driver’s training in the summer and teachers who traditionally taught math, science, and shop class risked their lives by teaching driver’s training to prepubescent boys and girls.

And so, every morning for a month in the summer, I would climb in the car with Mary Ashcraft, Marc Thornburg, and my gym teacher Mr. Reed.  Two of our trio of newbies would sit in the back seat while the other automobile apprentice drove with Mr. Reed at their side.  After an hour or so, we would switch and someone else would have their opportunity to terrify the passengers.  The two neophytes in the back seat (and I suspect Mr. Reed, as well) would spend the hours praying that we didn’t die at the hands of the inexperienced driver behind the wheel. Looking back, I truly believe that nothing stood between us and Death except sheer blind luck and Mr. Reed’s passenger-side break peddle.

This truth was never more evident than the morning I was cruising down the gravel roads of central Indiana, enjoying the plume of dust roiling in my wake.  Mr. Reed casually turned to me and asked me a simple and direct question in a calm tone, “Do you hear that noise, Curt?”

Making sure my hands were still at 10 and 2 and that both eyes remained on the road, I leaned in toward the dash and listened for a minute.  The noise wasn’t coming from the engine; it wasn’t mechanical in nature. So, I listened more intently.  And then I heard it.  It was a rustling sound that seemed to be coming from the passenger side of the car as if it was in the door, or just outside the door, or even under the tires.  It was loud and was getting louder the further I drove.

“I do hear it!” I exclaimed with pride.  “What is it?” I asked with genuine curiosity.

Mr. Reed, in a composed and unperturbed reply, stated the obvious truth that my young driver’s mind could not comprehend, “Well, that’s the side ditch that you’re driving in.  It’s scraping against the side and bottom of the car.  You might want to get back on the road.”

I was driving 50 miles per hour along the back roads of Indiana…actually the back side ditches of Indiana, and had no awareness of the danger.  I was completely ignorant of my plight.  I was oblivious to the hazards in my driving.  It took someone with experience to point out the error of my ways and guide me to the center of the lane.

Thanks to Mr. Reed, to this day I rarely drive in the ditch; at least, not when I’m in the car.

But how many times in my personal life have I veered off course, strayed off the path, found myself on the edge of the straight and narrow without even knowing it?  How many times have I turned my life toward the margin of right and wrong, the boarder between safety and peril?  The answer?  Far too many times.

We could all use a calm voice in our life from time to time, guiding us back, reminding us of the warning signs, helping us hear the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) sounds that announce danger heading our way.  How about you?  Do you have a Mr. Reed in your life?  Do you have someone who is willing to ride along through the ups and downs of this journey who can gently speak truth when you wander off course?  Do you have someone who will point out the truth when you can’t see it yourself?

I’m certainly thankful for Mr. Reed.  He taught me how to drive…and so much more.

Ups and Downs

20140105_151935Here’s what I’ve seen in the past weeks:

  • One friend lost her job.
  • One friend received a promotion.
  • One marriage is falling apart.
  • One unborn child died.
  • One friend has rectal cancer.
  • One friend had surgery for prostate cancer.
  • One friend lost his father.
  • Sunny and warm days can turn into winter wonderlands overnight.
  • Dark times are always, always followed by sunny days.

And here’s what I’ve learned as a result of all this:

  • Life and health are frail.
  • Marriages are hard.
  • Winter wonderlands are beautiful…if only for a few days.
  • Life always ends in death.
  • In between birth and death, we make the most of every moment or we don’t…it’s our choice.

What will I learn next week?