I’m sitting in the office on Saturday at 11:30 in the morning. I’m at work today because some of our campers are landing at Logan International, and if they get lost, this is one of their contact numbers. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon in Boston. Somewhere outside Jackson, Wyoming, the woman I love is leading backpacking trips with her own group of underage campers. It’s 12:30 there. Because the office has a fun DSL line and I’ve got time on my hands, I’m watching a web cam placed in front of the Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto. The sun should should be rising in Japan any hour now. It’s 3:30 in the morning there. 3:30 Sunday morning.
This is something I’ve never really experienced before. Having spent a good amount of time doing scholarly research on “internet issues” these past few years, I’ve often read and often said such ludicrous things as the World Wide Web is making the world a smaller, more interconnected place. But I can’t say I’ve ever really felt that way about my own experiences. I have sporadic email conversations with my friends in New York or Portland or my brother in San Diego. But I already feel close to them. I got in touch with the web master of a Buddhist site out of Hawai’i not long ago, but his responses to my emails felt more like letters than the sort of instant connection and communication promised by pundits and internet propagandists. Rarely do I participate in chat rooms because even the Buddhist ones are filled with flamers and hate messages. So sitting here in the office on a sunny Saturday afternoon being acutely aware of campers in Logan International Airport, my girlfriend in Wyoming’s backcountry, and a temple in Japan makes me feel a little less lonely.
And that’s what it’s really all about, so the pundits and propagandists tell us. It’s about feeling connected to whole of the world through silicon and microprocessors and telephone wires and so on. But I have to say, though my thoughts are global right now, spread out from Kyoto to Boston, I can’t shake the reality that I’m sitting in an office chair. That I’m staring at my computer. That here in Berkeley the sun is shinning and despite how connected I am, I’d rather be at the beach with my dog or riding my bike through the park or having lunch at some outdoor cafe with a friend. I’d really rather not be here in the office at all, and I’d rather be with someone unencumbered by silicon and microprocessors.
It’s now 11:45. Landing in Boston about now, local time 2:45, is some kid from Maryland. My thoughts are with the woman I love who’s probably having lunch in Wyoming. 12:45. And the silhouette of the temple is growing increasing more defined against the lightening sky in downtown Kyoto.
When it’s 4:45 in Boston, 2:45 in Wyoming, 1:45 in Berkeley and 5:45 Sunday morning in Kyoto, I can go home. I can go the park with my dog, see some friends, enjoy the rest of a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unless you, too, are stuck at a desk, turn off your computer. You’ve got time to make connections in the real world.