Before I quit my job nine months ago, I used the Internet sparingly. I had an email address and that was about it. I got online whenever there was a free terminal around to check my inbox, but I only did this when I expected something new.
I had a landline, a reasonable stack of novels from the nearest library, and a mean-looking laptop disconnected from the world of other computers.
I wrote no less than six hours a day on this laptop, and I read words when I wasn’t writing. This pattern continued until 2008, when I couldn’t stay disconnected any longer.
It had nothing to do with a disenchantment of the real world or a sudden need to get online, a kind of connect-or-die-of-boredom proposition.
Boredom is not a problem for me. I can sit in the doctor’s office for hours, without any reading material, just waiting for my name to be called, and be entertained to the point of laughter. I don’t complain of being bored. I can’t even remember the last time I was bored. It had to have been when I was a boy, but maybe there is no “last time”, maybe I’ve never been bored.
Call it a gift, call it a curse.
After all, it’s no secret that boredom has birthed its fair share of Big Ideas. How many times throughout history has someone been sitting with their feet propped on a desk, bored to gruesome death, when the proverbial cord is pulled and, presto!, on comes the light?
How many times throughout history has someone been waiting for the train with their elbows on their knees, head slumped between shoulders, bored to the gutters of death, when, snap!, the thought of a lifetime occurs to them.
How many times throughout history has someone been pacing the length of a room too small for them, a room too dark for them, a room too cold and moldy for them, pacing the sad creaking larch wood floor, dying of a strange strain of global boredom, when a previously unknown, unmarked, undefined and unspoken for corner of the universe shines in its infinite splendor, shines just for you.
Your Big Idea.
There for the picking.
Call it a gift, call it a curse, for me boredom is foreign. That said, it couldn’t have been a connect-or-die-of-boredom proposition that made me an Internet user, but it could have been a strong desire to change course, to quit being everything I had been for the past three years and become something new.
Well, not really become something new so much as retrieve a part of what I had been prior to those three years of being a registered residential trainee appraiser.
Work as an appraiser, though somewhat challenging and novel at times, was still an abstraction of what I loved to do with my time. Put another way:
Work, though lucrative and extracurricular at times, was still a waste of my time.
And the worst part about it was that since boredom didn’t pay me visits in the office, work stood no chance of giving birth to Big Ideas. While I wasted my time on the one hand, I was thoroughly entertained on the other. A recipe for disaster, for wasting away, eroding into something unfamiliar and glabrous, a mass of meaninglessness.
I had to stop if I wanted to save myself, and the Internet made it possible. The world of computers brought me back to where I wanted to be, like a realignment of the vessel, a righting of the ship: I am writing again, I am reading again, all because I’m online.
Nine months after letting my registered residential trainee appraiser license expire, my thumbprint reaches far and wide on the Web. My work and my words are dependent on the Web, but it isn’t good when words become dependent on the Web.
Words have the power to stand alone, even when written by hand in a small spiral notebook that no one will likely ever read, once imagined, words don’t need anything but themselves to exist.
Why then don’t I use a word processor anymore? Why then have I abandoned my small spiral notebooks? Why then has disuse rendered my hand unaccustomed to my own handwriting? Why then am I only writing online?
Bless the Web for giving me work, curse the Web for taking my words.