Writing is an Itch. This is a place to scratch.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Is Solitude Going The Way of The Dodo?

By Rattus Scribus© 17 Sept 2010

I am the last of my kind, so I think

I'll put all my eggs safely in one basket.

(From a humorous cartoon I saw once.)

Most of us have heard, read, or watched a tale about a future world in which all privacy has been eliminated. It usually starts off in the name of benevolent protection of the people from an enemy, and inevitably the people themselves become the enemy. Orwell's 1984, the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix, Alan Moore's V for Vendetta, these are entertaining and thought-provoking.

Poster based on Orwell's 1984

But I never gave the premise enough concern to do anything about it personally. Until in a recent documentary, scholars demonstrated how the internet, cell phones, sophisticated non-stop consumer advertisement, astounding and increasingly ubiquitous surveillance capabilities, tracking and information devices on everything from consumer goods to pets and people, and other technologies, are making the world into a place where privacy and solitude are going the way of the Dodo bird.

"You have zero privacy now. Get over it."

Scott McNealy, CEO, Sun Microsystems, 1999

This small meditation is not about stirring up dire Orwellian predictions. But I am convinced that, in the face of these developments, unless we each take deliberate steps in our lives, solitude (significant quiet time that recharges and nourishes your mind, soul and faith) will become an endangered or even extinct practice.

Photo: Chris Otten, Camerahead Project (Devoted

to calling attention to America becoming a land

of surveillance cameras).

This truth came home to me not by reading and watching V for Vendetta, but during one of those moments of confirmation that come when prayer and a growing conviction collide with a seeming coincidence.

My wife Anita and I were driving in the Lake Elmo region of Minnesota looking for a mom and pop garden nursery. It was clear from the bleached buffalo bones and tumble weeds that we had strayed quite off the beaten path of civilization. Just then, something like a resort campground came into view, and a man ambling casually down the wooded trail towards the roadway where we waited to ask him for directions.

As soon as he was within earshot, I called out, "Excuse me! Can we trouble you for some directions?" He walked over to the car and gave us the directions that would thereafter get us to our destination. After he had finished speaking, I asked, "What is this place? It's beautiful. Do you live here?" He responded that it was the Jesuit Retreat Center at Demontreville in Lake Elmo, that he had come there seeking God in solitude and silence, and that his words to me were the first he had spoken in a week.

Now I may not be the sharpest knife on the butcher block, but even I knew that at that moment I represented precisely what spiritual adepts throughout the ages have gone to monasteries, retreats, deserts and remote mountains to get away from: the tyranny of the urgent, a mad whirling dervish of a world that will have us body and soul if we let it.

As I enter a new phase of my life I have become increasingly determined to protect this endangered species; to practice some environmental clean-up in my little world so that quality solitude should not become extinct.

So far I have affirmed three classical principles:

1. Don't think of the whole journey; think of the first step.

2. A little done often is better than a lot done rarely.

3. And third, with thanks to Jedi Master Yoda: "Do, or do not. There is no try."


Angelsdoor * Penny said...

What a great post Ruben! I think privacy, with the exception of our homes has become obsolete..
I love your three classical principles. With your kind permission I would like to write them down and tack it on my desk.
Enjoy your weekend my friend.

My warm regards to you and Anita.

Fete et Fleur said...

I'm clinging to No. 1

Love you!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

So am I dear one. And a miracle just occurred. I didn't even know what you were going to write about, and yet both our posts this week go in tandem. Hmmmm....a miracle?

myletterstoemily said...

dear rattus,

how inspiring to read these deep
thoughts of yours, knowing all
along that you are married to the
queen of the cottage.

"peace, be still" comes to me when
i think of big brother. i worry for
my five children who are addicted
to their i-phones.

George the Lad said...

Quality solitude is good for the mind and soul, even just a walk and sit down, by ones self, which I do often. May be this is from being an only child, but I find the older a get the more I need it, just to recharge my batteries
Thanks for this post, and your thoughts, both you and Anita are deep thinking poeple, and I'm so glad are paths have crossed in this so called blog land.
This is Jan not George that has penned this post! mind you I am sure he likes his walks as much as me

Debbie said...

hi ruben! brilliant post. i have been feeling the same way. it worries me that younger people are never alone with themselves. that that thought is almost unbearable. this morning my stepdaughter was on her computer and on her phone texting at the same time. will we evolve to the point where we no longer speak and language becomes unnecessary? i loved your line "the tyranny of the urgent, a mad whirling dervish of a world ..." SO TRUE.

sorry i haven't been visiting much. i have so little time with work and then i have so much to do at home and, as i've complained about before, my husband isn't as evolved as you! LOL! Give my love to Anita and you two take care! thanks for stopping by my little blog.


Jacqueline said...

Yesterday I kissed Len adios as he drove off for his "Weekend in the Woods" with a bunch of men that meet somewhere in the middle of Mt. Rainier every year to talk and pray and relax. It's a bit of a boy scout adventure but God is the leader.

The moment he left, God met me where I was at...in the kitchen (somewhere by those prunes...wink!) and I made a major decision! You see, my life has been to full, not enough solitude, running after a paycheck and then when I found a big paycheck I about traded my sould for it and it about killed me...

I went on a drive yesteday...it was a adios drive. I went to all the places that have kept me in bondage...everything from impulse buying at a hot spot thrift store to a casino that took my money. I said farewell to a list of 5 things that have kept me in bondage and being busy and today is a new day.

As always, I just write my thoughts down and don't edit one single thing when I write you. I love the freedom you give me in that Rattus.
Love sent...I'm so happy I've met you.

Martina said...

Great post Ruben! Yes, solitude and alone time is not popular - we#re supposed to always be active, do things, be up to it at any moment. Yet also, meditation has become more widely spread and accepted - maybe because we need this medicine! I take at least a few minutes every day to connect with silence that way - i think, without it, i'd go crazy! Have a lovely sunday!

L'Elégante said...

Oh! The solitude …
Difficult to be at once in the system and outside the system.
The permanent surveillance of our lives is bound to a shape of paranoia and at the same time mercantile competition. Paranoia of the others and the need of money of "big brother"!
The important, of my point of view, is the free will. Know what we want and does not want!
Find precious moments for one to think and feel, make body with the nature which is more similar all the same to the human being than the electronic objects without soul which watch us.
But do they really watch us?
Are not these objects there to feed the fantasies (fantasme) of some Dr Jekyll drunk with power?
We should feed on what we like.
Good week-end.

Bonnie said...

How strange that I should read your magnificent post as a helicopter is circling overhead with a disembodied voice telling us to be on the lookout for someone (couldn't make out what he was saying). Talk about Big Brother.

I totally get and agree with what you are saying. Soon after birth, we will be stamped with a barcode that will contain pertinent information about us. I bet you can't wait!

Hey Ruben, I LOVED V is for Vendetta!

Love to you and Anita,

Liz, Viive and Benji said...

Hi! I popped in here through your wife's blog and was so moved. I believe, like your wife, there is a miracle in a walk to find envelopes. Your "About Me" resonated. I believe there are circumstances where it is important to invade the privacy of loved ones. Women who think their husbands are cheating and fear terminal illness have a carte blanche with snooping, as far as I'm concerned. The same goes for parents who think their children are engaging in risky behavior, get another green light from me. It is not a perfect world, and we need to protect ourselves and our children. Otherwise, I draw the line.

Marie Antionette said...

Hello Ruben,
Great post. And so true. Ibet that mink was as surprised as you were...LOL.
I'm back again, like a bad penny I always turn up.Had to stop by to say hello. HELLO !!!
Take care Dear,
XXOO Marie Antionette

Kelly said...


I have been studying this in school. And something that really stood out to me wqas that those born in the era of all this technology don't even realize that they're missing their privacy. To them it has always been this way. Isn't that sad?

Tish Jett said...

OMG, a real writer. How magnificent.

Having known your beautiful wife for some time now, it is a pleasure and humbling experience to "meet" you.

What a rich life you two must share.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Three cheers, a hoot and a rrrrr!!!!

Sarah said...

Well said! I've just spent some quality time reading down through your previous posts that I'd missed. It's refreshing to find such a thoughful and thought provoking blog. Thank you for sharing.
I often worry about how connected our youth are today. Life will hurry past and perhaps soon they will realize what they have missed.
Have a great weekend. ~ Sarah