Tag Archives: speed

Fall 2007

Although perhaps more Luddite than some, I’m also more technically savvy than others. I’m part of that awkward in-between generation that didn’t grow up with much technology, but was introduced to it at an early enough age to be able to integrate it into an understanding of the world and the way things work. As such, I may be a bit reluctant to embrace new technologies, but sometimes also pleasantly wowed.

I despair that kids these days figure they don’t have to learn to write or spell or do basic math because there are machines to do these things for them. I’m not sure how they’re going to cope when the power fails. But hey, middle-aged fuddy-duddies have been wondering about the next generation since the Ancient Greeks and somehow we’re still here.

The Internet enables the spread of information-and misinformation-at previously unavailable speeds. This has opened the door to a whole new arena of enlightenment and potential frustration.

I’ve been trying to correct some misinformation that got online about my involvement with a series of books. When I’ve contacted specific offending websites requesting that they correct this information, they generally shrug and claim that it’s not their problem; their information comes from the distributor, who, of course, gets its information from the publisher, who was responsible for creating the misinformation in the first place. As an individual outside this loop, I apparently have no voice, even though it’s my name and reputation being misrepresented. Needless to say, I was forced to go a more formal route to seek resolution. Although the situation has improved, it still isn’t resolved. Why? Because misinformation replicates itself ad nauseum, just as information does, on the Internet. As Caleb Carr pointed out in Killing Time, on the Internet, there’s no differentiation between information and truth. There’s no consideration of authenticity or validity; there’s only endlessly streaming data.

Not all Internet errors are so annoying. I occasionally receive fan mail, even from radio stations, for Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh Mezzo Soprano. What I find funny is that these fans don’t realize that our names are spelled differently, so they end up on my website rather than hers. Then, even though my website is pretty obviously that of a writer, rather than a vocalist, they still go ahead and e-mail me. But hey, I’m a good person. I redirect them. If I get back to my music, things may become even more confusing. Of course, I’ve also discovered one, possibly two, other writers named Catherine Jenkins. While they seem to be in the UK, there’s still lots of room for growing confusion, thanks to the globalizing nature of the Internet.

On the plus side, the Internet has enabled me to locate numerous people I’d misplaced or even forgotten. I’ve reconnected with people from high school and my old hometown of Peterborough, people I’d lost touch with for fifteen or twenty years. E-mail allows me to stay in greater contact with friends who live at a distance. While I still write an occasional letter or make an occasional long distance phone call, this is a way of saying “hey” at the moment of that thought, with an immediacy that doesn’t have the disruptive effect of a ringing telephone. It allows people to mention the regular minutiae of a day in a way we generally don’t in letters. It’s a hybrid form of communication that supports the advantages of both telephones and letters.

Professionally, electronic media and communication have made things much easier and more efficient for me. Writing research is a whole lot simpler using the Internet-as long as one keeps a critical eye on the information source. I’ve also been able to track down and contact other professionals to request information, guidance or input into something I’m working on. The technology is great, as long as it’s used intelligently.

I’m also pleased that some literary journals are now accepting submissions via e-mail. From my perspective, that reduces the time and cost of handling, office supplies and postage. Electronic submissions are especially welcome when I’m submitting outside Canada. I gave up on International Reply Coupons some years ago; they’re expensive and I found that not everyone on the receiving end knew what they were or how to redeem them. Whenever I travel to the US or UK, I buy postage stamps, but the rates keep changing, so I still have to research current rates and figure out how to make whatever stamps I have add up. If a journal accepts electronic submissions, I don’t have to worry about return postage on my SASE. I’m currently compiling data to see if the turnaround time on electronic submissions is any faster than those sent the old-fashioned way.

So, as with most things, I can see both pros and cons. I use what works to advantage for me and critically consider the rest, accepting that the technology is here now and it’s here to stay.

© Catherine Jenkins 2007

Fall 2006

We live in a time of super-sized snacks and downsized businesses, of microchips and macro-pollution, of corporate buyouts and televised natural disasters. A time in which the prescription and consumption of anti-depressants is running riot, when people have to pop pills to make it through another day of existence. We get caught up in the time turmoil of speed, unable to fully recognize, acknowledge or accept our human frailties. The 1950s concept that technology would reduce our working day, freeing more time for leisure, has failed to materialize; instead, we’re expected to keep up with the machine, be it computer, cell phone, BlackBerry (or BlueBerry as I keep calling them) or whatever. We just can’t get away from it. We’re at work 24/7, caught in a state of high anxiety, fight-or-flight adrenaline high, until the body can take no more and crashes into a neurochemically induced depression in an attempt to get some downtime. The human nervous system just isn’t designed to work this way, always in a state of high output, the switch jammed in the “on” position. Sooner or later, something’s got to give.

My trip to England was a chance to stop everything and reboot. I’ve been striving for better balance (one of my new year’s resolutions) and generally it’s working. Daily Yoga, affirmations and an attitude of gratitude really do make a difference, in part because they make me slow down and consider my reality, rather than my daybook, even if it’s only for a few minutes. But as fall approaches, a time when everything cranks into high gear simultaneously, I’m finding it more difficult to maintain that balance.

Through the summer, I’ve been taking frequent weekend trips to the cottage, usually with a select friend or two, just to have an oasis of time in nature, a calm. I’ve done a lot of necessary work on the cottage, but have also taken time to consciously relax and just Be. At home, I’ve been working on de-cluttering my apartment (another new year’s resolution), finally settling in after ten years of denial. I’ve been writing and that feels great-very affirming. And sure, I’ve been doing other work too, but at a reduced pace.

Over the horizon of this calm, I can see fall coming, the period when too much of everything happens and I get wound up and start waking up at four a.m. ready to start the day. When anxiety preys on my nerves, I’m “too busy” to write, to clean, to exercise, to go outside for a walk, to socialize, to… live my life. And I can already feel that anxiety creeping in, even though it’s only Labour Day.

On the subway last week, my head started spinning in anticipatory anxiety and I managed to divert by lapsing into this intuitive, intensely in-the-moment meditation. “Right now, I am on a train. Right now, I am on a train heading west. Right now, I am on a decelerating train. Right now, I am on a train pulling into Yonge station. Right now, I am on a train waiting for passengers to get on. Right now, I am watching teenagers goofing with each other. Right now, I am hearing the bells toll the closing doors. Right now, I am on an accelerating train. Right now, I am on a train.” Etc. It was a purely spontaneous, relaxing, centering, and joyful internal rant, one that drew to mind that I am only in the present and that the future can only be affected from the present moment. Right then, I wasn’t dealing with any of the subjects causing me anxiety; I was just on the train going home. Refocusing my thoughts on that present was very calming and made me feel happy. “Right now, I am on a train with a goofy smile on my face for no apparent reason.”

Since then, I’ve fallen into this several more times, internally repeating a rolling rap of observations of the now. Right now, I’m lying in a lawn chair on the front lawn of the cottage. Right now, the morning sun is barely creasing the cottage roof, just beginning to illuminate the page. Right now, crickets are singing. Right now, a fish jumped. Right now, a bird is rhythmically chirping. Right now, the grass is still wet with dew. Right now, it’s Monday morning and I’m still not back in Toronto, still not sweating over paying work. Right now, that doesn’t matter. Right now, the sky is such an intense blue, has such limitless depth, I could stare up at it forever.

© Catherine Jenkins, 2006