The Internet is a strange place, largely because it’s not a place. As a society we reference it as a place because that’s how we’re used to referencing things with addresses.
It makes things easier.
There are ways in which it is like a place – a separate country, born of optimistic ideas that re-awaken every now and then, increasingly divorced from the reality that is there if only so that we can hope that one day we can change that reality. Because if we change reality, we might somehow matter. We want to matter, some of us more than others, but we all want to matter.
Whether we do or don’t matter really doesn’t matter. Whether we think we do or don’t matter really does matter only because it’s about how we view ourselves. And how should we view ourselves?
The Internet has changed that. I’ve seen it happen so far, and I’m certain it will continue changing it one way or another.
As it happens, I got here by looking for old links of some of my writing. They are gone.
For less than a heartbeat, I was disappointed. My writing over the years on various sites, from BrainBuzz.com (later CramSession.com) to WorldChanging.com has disappeared into the ether – some words rewritten in book form by others. My own site, the domain that has been around the longest, suffered a hosting error circa 2005 that it never recovered from.
I, however, did.
And it’s all good. I smiled at that, knowing that much of what I wrote was dated and didn’t matter anymore. We scribble these notes to nowhere and let them loose in the hope that they find a home – maybe they do, maybe they don’t.
This medium lacks the longevity of stone tablets. With every increase of technology, our words become more susceptible to time – a balance, perhaps, with the amount of effort it takes to reach a wider audience. Tapping away here at 4 a.m., having effortlessly stayed up the night thinking about such things, I am fine with this mortality of prose.
Were I to spend time etching in stone, it would last longer – I would write less. And yet, in writing less we sometimes write more.
Those broken links are a salvation of sorts. They were practice for me to become better, to think things through, to etch more carefully into the ultimate medium – the mind.
It is there that we can defy this mortality of words – a necessary aspect of our being. Only the good things should last, only the good things are worth keeping.
Dreams are ethereal for a reason. They do not belong here.
What we do with those wisps of dream is all that matters – and sometimes it means broken links in the stream of a consciousness that our society dares not master.
Here’s the thing: I don’t really know what I’m doing with it, so it has it’s own life. A strange one at that. And I don’t really care too much since I’m focusing on writing these days.
It’s a work in progress that has already taught me a lot. For example, despite having at least twice as many posts, KnowProSE.com articles tend to get more traffic because of the material. Let’s face it, what I write on RealityFragments isn’t for everyone – it’s not nearly as focused.
And strangely, the Facebook page has allowed me a certain amount of freedom. A certain anonymity, and it certainly has gotten more shares than my own network has had. I seem to attract people who don’t like sharing, which is fodder for another post in the future.
So far, after stepping back after more focused writing for about a week:
(1) For KnowProSE.com and TechNewsTT (the OpEds), my general rule of thumb is, “If it’s not being written about and it bugs me, I should write something about it.”
(2) For life, the universe and everything posts, I write them here on RealityFragments.
(3) As I write more, I actually share less often.
The last one – because people may think I only write what I post on one site or the other – is about the writing I do offline, unpublished so far. This is because I’m seriously focusing on my writing.
The news yesterday was that Sir VS Naipaul had passed away. Only the day before I had been in West Mall, in North Trinidad, and had glanced at some of his books. ‘Soon’, I thought, since my reading stack is larger than my time to read these days.
When I first got published, I went around to my father’s siblings and got almost the same response every single time.
“VS Naipaul is your uncle, you know. It’s in your genes.”
It was very matter of fact, dismissive and as supportive as I would find could be expected from my family. I retorted every time, “My mother is a writer too.” All of them nodded quietly, dismissively, and went on with their lives.
Clearly, I kept writing. After all, if he’s my Uncle and that’s their logic to dismiss that accomplishment, all the cousins I know and all the cousins I don’t know also have him as an Uncle. In fact, a lot of people in Trinidad and Tobago are related to him. None that I know of, including myself, actually knew him. He didn’t help me with my homework, or give me a talking-to when I needed it.
To me, Sir VS Naipaul was simply a literary character that existed in the minds of others. Over the course of the years, I read a few of his books. I was told some of his history and life by someone who knew of him and might have met him a few times as a child.
This is the core of the issue I consider when people in Trinidad and Tobago try to claim Sir VS Naipaul. Here’s this author who had the opportunity to leave Trinidad and Tobago with British citizenship. He did. He did well with it. Would he have done as well were he in Trinidad and Tobago? Probably not. He traveled, he lived his life, and that was that.
What did Trinidad and Tobago do for him to get him where he was? And Trinidad and Tobago tried to give him a prize that he declined, which further stirred some negative sentiment. And yet, the Trinidad he left was very different, a Trinidad under British rule. Why wouldn’t he leave given the opportunity? To this day, people still aspire to leave.
My paternal grandmother’s brother, Ram Singh, was this source. So he told me of his memories of the Lion House, of his few meetings with this literary character. That was kind of boring, really, because he didn’t have much to say on the topic other than, “He was always upstairs writing.”
And that’s all I really know. I do know that of the books of his I’ve read, they were good. He didn’t write the sort of things I enjoyed reading, and the Internet will be full enough of his praises.
What I do like about him is that he did what he did on his own, despite what others said or did. And, through references to him, I got to hear more about a very different Trinidad and Tobago. People like Uncle Ram would tell me about how they would ride to Carlsen Field on bicycles to get chewing gum from the U.S. Army base, from well-intentioned soldiers through the fence. He laughed about that when he told me, even as I thought of a poor East Indian boy on a bicycle begging at a fence at a U.S. military installation. I’ve been on the other side of those fences.
It was a very different Trinidad and Tobago. A pre-Independence era, a post WWII era. Rations. Bicycle licenses. Things that they never teach of in school.
In turn, I spoke with Great Uncle John – my paternal grandfather’s friend. In his 90s at the time, he had served as the Master-at-Arms at the Chaguramas base, had been involved in politics in a small way right after Independence… he had met his wife when he was out patrolling on an Estate… and she was washing clothes in the river. I learned a lot by simply listening to him – about how there was so much water at Chaguramas, so many wells, and that the country had water. A man of few words, I would simply sit there and listen to someone who was happy to have someone there to talk to. There was a time he was working in Port of Spain and missed the last taxi, so he walked to Chaguanas through the canefields, got home at sunrise, showered and went back to work by taxi again.
There are many colorful stories, many literary characters, but right now everyone’s concerned about Sir VS Naipaul – about what he wrote, about how he wrote it, about why he wrote it… just like any other author. In the end, yes, geographically he was from an island in the Caribbean that was then under British rule, and he went on to do great things.
But it wasn’t for him to make Trinidad and Tobago better. It wasn’t for him to make Trinidad and Tobago more recognized for literature – in this regard, he stands largely alone and as a borrowed literary figure that left Trinidad and Tobago long ago, from a different era, who made his own way as so many others who leave Trinidad and Tobago do. Everyone wants to claim the successes, no one wants to claim the failures.
Einstein noted this sort of thing himself:
If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.
– Albert Einstein.
(Address to the French Philosophical Society at the Sorbonne (6 April 1922); French press clipping (7 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 36-378] and Berliner Tageblatt (8 April 1922) [Einstein Archive 79-535])
There are many literary characters running around Trinidad and Tobago. Sir VS Naipaul was one of them during the British era, but not after.
When we read, we enter a world that someone has created and make it our own. It’s not our world. No matter how hard people will themselves into these worlds, no matter how well they think they fit them like gloves, they are not their worlds – they are the worlds of the writer, the one who dared architect a framework of thought that can guide a willing mind into creating images of a world not their own… that may, sometimes, look almost like the world the writer envisioned.
Textbooks are much the same of course, and texts of a more spiritual nature… they are all frameworks. To create a new framework is a daunting task – to try to be original is almost impossible in a world that constantly regurgitates ideas that sell.
Writers, it is rumored, like to eat, and appreciate a roof over their head. Some even say that they appreciate wearing clothing, though no one can seem to agree on what writers should wear – particularly writers. All of these things cost in the framework we all live in, and so there are two main types of writers: Those who are read, and those who aren’t.
To highlight this, please name only one author you do not know.
I rest my case.
And so, to be popular, it’s not unexpected that a writer would copy a framework – and then, it’s not even their framework. In the mind of a software engineer, it’s object re-use – different attributes, but the same object. This is fair game.
Book stores are filled with unoriginal ideas; trust me: I have become more and more disappointed over the years in bookstores as I look for original minds expressing themselves. Of course, I have read tens of thousands of books by now – willingly! – and so it’s harder to read something ‘new’. Once you see that object with all the different attributes, you know underneath it’s the same object.
It gets harder to stretch the mind with new ideas when the same old ones simply change their clothing now and then. Some even change gender – and these days, without intending to offend anyone – there are so many genders. When I grew up there were only 3 around me (most people only recognized 2).
Technology, business… pretty much the same object re-use concept. It’s boring. Everyone is out there building better mousetraps, and yet no one seems to know what to do with all the mice.
In my lifetime, the global population has doubled. This means that the diversity of the planet as far as humans go has risen exponentially. And yet, everyone reads the same books (if they bother), watches the same movies and television shows, listens to the same music…
And in a world of such wealth in diversity, it’s so hard to find originality. It’s out there, of course, but it’s certainly hard to break out of the algorithmic frameworks social media has been building oh so quietly for such a short period of time.
In the context of social networks, I have found myself feeling feeling it as repressive – thus I have left them behind other than for broadcasting, really, and even that is debatable.
I’ve always been a proponent of simply creating content and allowing people to find it; I’m not sure shouting in the bazaar is useful when you don’t actually own the bazaar. It certainly doesn’t add to the appeal of the bazaar unless you love being shouted at by random people.
The Internet is my bazaar, not their social network. Their social networks are algorithmically cathedrals disguised as bazaars.
So, to simplify that part of my life, I am withdrawing. Even email has a new layer of obfuscation to protect me from the constant drivel of marketers and their marketing, of conversations with those who don’t want to have conversations but to shout at you as if your ear is their bazaar.
There is a poetic symmetry in randomly popping up in someone else’s bazaar and whispering, “Hey. I wrote something new.”
I have retreated to the Internet, the bizarre bazaar, the foundation upon which cathedrals disguised as bazaars are built.
Once upon a time not so long ago I began RealityFragments.com – an answer to my more personal writing in a time when I was chained to technology on KnowProSE.com, when I wanted a clear space to publish my less technical side and explore it. And allow others to, to allow myself to see who was interested in what I had to write otherwise.
It’s a bit over a year now. And out of the blue last week, Facebook asked me if I was the ‘owner’ of RealityFragments.com and allowed me to be in charge of the RealityFragments Facebook page.
I paused. It had happened because my profile mentions the site – it is, after all, something I do – but this isn’t a business. It’s not a news source in any true sense of the word. I’m not looking for writing gigs. Truth be told, I’ve been procrastinating successfully with regard to writing a book by kicking around book ideas for the last 3 weeks. So. Why do I need a Facebook page for it?
I don’t. But I took it because of the key issue on the Internet, on social media: Someone else might. And it has become part of a brand. Maybe even marketing of my brand for whatever purpose that has yet to be decided. So it sits there, this page, and I have no idea what to really do with it.
Facebook seems intent on me adding a button to it. I found it enough to simply upload some images for the page after I claimed it. And then a few people liked it.
So. A Facebook page for the site – something that maybe a decade ago would have been something people immediately did so that they could somehow do something that other people thought was cool. Now, it seems so pedestrian.
This is the first blog entry I’ll share there. And it’s not designed to do anything cool, but instead explain why it exists, and why I’m not too impressed… and why I don’t think others should be. Yet it has potential for non-Wordpress.com users to discuss and comment on things if they choose to. Invariably, someone will call me a liberal or conservative, someone will use Hitler in a conversation, and people will either disagree or agree with what I have written.
As reality sets in about my mother’s passing, I sit considering over my morning coffee how much I felt I could not write about – the unspokens – because I knew that my mother would read some things and think that they were about her, or that they would make her feel sad or even angry.
We censor ourselves – some of us, anyway – and with the understanding that anything on the Internet must exist in it’s own context, it’s difficult to predict how something will be read, if it is read at all.
There’s some humor there; the majority of my family do not read things much longer than a headline, status update or text message. My mother, on the other hand, would read everything and stew. She could be eerily good at reading intent, or reading underlying meaning – and denying things she was right about would be not only dishonest, but an insult. I come by it naturally.
Sitting here, I realize she was the last reason I censored anything. I did so for my father as well. Despite the grief and sorrow, I am unfettered. Free. A final gift from her, of sorts, an accidental good in a bad situation.