www.netvibes.com is my new homepage. I dump my RSS feeds here, google search here, keep my to-do list right on there... ach, it is lovely. Now I want to understand the technology behind it.
After Suzanne's singing audition (she's directing a lovely Rachmaninoff vocal piece that I cannot spell the name of), I barricaded myself in my room today, leaving only to take out the trash and briefly watch Mary Poppins in my suite lounge. Once in a while, a little isolation is good.
I'm nearly done reading McLuhan's Understanding Media, which is mildly old-fashioned in tone and content but has some interesting insights anyway. McLuhan was, as I understand it, the first person to study the effect that media (clocks, newspapers, phones, telegraphs, radio, the lightbulb) has on society rather than focusing on the content they transmit. "The medium is the message" was a phrase coined by that book. Reading it is like listening to a grand-uncle tell you the discoveries of his old days by the fireside; you nod and smile politely on occasion, but it's genuinely interesting stuff for the most part. For instance, McLuhan classifies media as "Hot" or "Cold," depending on how involved they make the individual feel. Does a media make a society more individualist (radio) or more tribal (print)? What does it mean for the social structure when information suddenly flows orders of magnitude faster than it ever has before? I think McLuhan would have gotten a kick out of the internet. I wonder if someone's written an equivalent book for the modern age.
One thing that came up in conversation when Chris and I were driving back from Bikes Not Bombs on Friday is the idea of just... living. Which I've never done. I spent my entire teenage life away from home working my brains out in magnet schools (IMSA and Olin). I'm not entirely sure where my childhood went. I had fun, but... well, math textbooks aren't entirely subsitutes for normal 12-year-old peer companionship. Between the ages of 14 and 19, I celebrated a grand total of one birthday at home, and that was only because I decided not to go to prom. I've never gone on a random road trip or seen a good night sky. I've never biked past the borders of my town or had a crush or pulled a large-scale prank. I have cried, for very short periods of time before regaining control, finding a solution, and laughing for real again, in front of a grand total of two people who were not my parents (and I a small child).
I have never really let myself be vulnerable to anything. (Even the act of writing these words in this blog, which might make some people vulnerable, does not make me uncomfortable, because I see it as an objective analysis, a sort of self-audit, and not particularly a revelation.)
There have been moments where I know I've lived: I've danced in the dark on a frozen lake, sat on an ice-covered tree for hours, played soccer in a warm downpour, and yelled poetry into a blizzard because it felt like the right thing to do at the moment. I live when I design, when I teach, and when I learn about lovely ideas like I mentioned in a previous post. I have painted cardboard armor and run down the hall in war stripes and played guitar in string-blistered fingers. But even now, too much of my time is spent attempting to observe life and analyze it rather than participate in it.
I don't take my academics obsessively seriously, and I have a lot of fun with what I do, but I've never actually stopped and had time to have a life, had space to have a life, or let myself... have a life. No overloaded classes, no crazy job, no family obligations. Just kind of being there. Appreciating things. Reading good books. Eating good food (when have I last cooked a full dinner from scratch with truly good ingredients?) Going where I want to go when I want to go there. I've always sold my time to somebody else, and I don't want to any more. I need a vacation. A very long vacation. *slips on ring of power, vanishes*
Kidding aside, I do need to take some time to step back and be still and quiet for a while. Knowing me, "still and quiet" means going off on some ballistic rampage quest o' fun, but the lack of obligations, attachment, and responsibility are what I"m going for. I'd like to take a year between Olin and whatever-comes-after-Olin to do something for myself. Options include volunteering somewhere like City Year, the Peace Corps (I know that's two years), Teach For America, shipping myself off to China or biking to Mexico or heading to the Philippines to do what I can, or sticking around Boston and trying to find something.
There's also the idea of heading across the country on a low-budget tour to learn about the American educational system. I'd like to write a book. I'd like to watch classrooms, see how they're being taught, see how local, state, and federal mandates affect education, see how they're supported. Talk to teachers, talk to students, talk to parents, administrators, government officials. How does a country help its children grow into good adults? What's out there? What's going on? It's a vague idea, and I'd need to find a more specific focus for it, not to mention a way to feasibly carry it out well.
I'm far too much of a dreamer for my own good.
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be.
Now put foundations under them.