The Goldfish, The Poet

June already. How did that happen? I woke up on Labor Day, browsed the Internet, screen-sucked, and maybe tweets rather than chirps got me through days. Today I woke up and I feel like I am 30 days older with nothing to show for. What did I do the last 30 days? Let me look over my Facebook status and my tweets too. Because honestly, most of my fleeting time was squandered on the screen. Did I even finish reading all the books I bought? Two maybe. And yet I had bought three more, which I neatly labeled, leafed through and put aside for dusting in my bookshelf. And just today, I got worked up and bought two more- sonnets this time. Perhaps if I can’t get through one whole book without straying somewhere between a page and the update on my screen, I could at least finish a poem. That will make me feel better. Who won’t with: “Book, when I close you, I open life.”- Pablo Neruda. Actually. Not. When I close the book, I stare at my screen and suck. I am a goldfish with an attention span of nine seconds. (According to a BBC article, that’s what we have become. No wonder Twitter lords it over everyone else.) I can no longer concentrate enough to win a human-goldfish marathon.  My eyes swim, from one thing to another, doing a myriad of things inside my tiny bowl. And as I swim through emails, blogs, videos, status updates and content, I grasp only snippets. Did I even bother reading emails to the end? Get the drift of what was said? Does anyone swim to the finish, the whole gunk? It’s maddening- the desire to rush to the next tab and drink more content to my brain. Too little time, too much to see. And probably the worst symptom of cyber-wasting is the inability to stop. You shut down and then your eyes have nothing to feast on, you are anxious, your fingers itch, and your very bored self pleads with you to “Please, just one hit, check for messages?” Is there a Screen-Sucking-Anonymous somewhere?  I’m torn, constantly having to choose between quiet, slow time with books as you lounge on a couch versus the fast-paced, accelerated bytes of information you get to sup up from the web. I adore browsing at the bookshop. Perhaps half the joy of reading is searching for the perfect book and finding it tucked there in that corner, exactly where you (only you) can see it. But then the search tab lures me: “Type any word,” he says, “I have millions of answers, all for your taking.” And then the email icon winks, attracting attention and it’s too damn seductive to refuse. So the maddening cycle starts and I’m once again hooked- a pushover, bait swimming around in an unending sea of information. Unable to stay long enough to catch what I should. I’m keeping this article short. There’s no use trying to trap goldfish. My 9 seconds are up. There was May. Here is June. I’m going to try catch what I still can. And so let me start (and end) with Sonnet 22.

We drive and are driven

But time’s stride—

think of it lost

in the ever-remaining.

All that’s hurrying

will quickly be past;

only what lingers

grants as credence.

Boys,  don’t fling your courage

into the thrill of speed

or attempts at flight.

All that is is at rest—

darkness and morning light,

flower and book.

Sonnet 22, Rainer Maria Rilke

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