"Let us not be ashamed to speak what we shame not to think."
-Michel de Montaigne

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

OF: Quiet Space

Photo by Big Richard C, CC (c) 2006
As someone currently living in a house with six other people, I've been thinking a lot about silence lately. Namely, what it means to have quiet space--literally, and mentally--and what it means to be bombarded with so many "life-improving" technologies or human interactions on any given day that it all becomes neither life-improving nor human. 

I've been thinking about the role of library as a sort of sanctuary of the mind and whether that concept is valid any more. 

I've been thinking about throwing my beloved iPhone into a dumpster and cutting my blossoming Internet addiction off at the root. 

I've been thinking about the extent to which all of this false connection actually makes me feel more alone, more antsy, and less capable of focusing on books, art, conversation, people. 

I've been thinking about what constitutes true quiet space--the cessation of external noise, internal noise, or both? What is the value of silence in our culture? In the age of narcissism, of the tweet, do we even honor silence as a necessary thing for the mind? As a necessary aperture by which regeneration and learning enter us? Creativity and peace?

Which brings me to the story of the "Crazy Asian Chick Who Goes Mad Over Breathing @ CSUN." A few weeks ago The Huffington Post did a brief story on a YouTube video that'd gone viral of an Asian student at CSUN who went "ballistic" in the library during finals week because other students were talking on their cell phones, etc, while she was trying to study. Naturally this caused a flurry of response because the girls who filmed their fellow student's rant called attention to her race, etc...

I felt incredibly sad for the girl when I first saw the video; namely because people thought it was okay to post critiques of her actions based on stereotypes and hatred toward Asians, and also because no one invested in the conversation centered on race spoke to the burden of the pressures to succeed as felt by minority students in particular. Very few stopped to consider what it meant to succumb to rage in a moment of intense academic stress and then suffer subsequent humiliation via the worldwide web.

And watching this video again, I'm still sad. And even now I'm not sure that I shouldn't be accusing myself of exploiting this student by re-posting the video and therefore sort of victimizing her again? And isn't that the nature of news? Of the Internet? Of talking about miserable and hurtful things which become viral on a platform wholly unconcerned with the lives--let alone feelings--of those who become immortalized with these sort of cruel snapshots? A moment of irrational anger. Of lust. A tweet. A picture. Forever and ever as the metadata lives and the URL persists.

What is anyone entitled to anymore  in terms of privacy or silence or dignity when it's so simple for anyone within earshot to record via smartphone and broadcast/share/digg/tweet/stumbleupon? Where was the librarian when this whole debacle was going down during finals week at CSUN? What obligation does a library/librarian have (if any) to provide and reinforce a place of sanctuary, of silence?

I don't really have any immediate answers to these questions other than to think of the myriad ways that I need silence as a human being. As a poet. As a woman attempting to reconnect herself to herself, to her mind, on a continual basis. It's not that I think Internet or the technology is inherently evil, or damaging, I just think it perhaps demands too much oxygen, too much attention in the menagerie. 

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