Nov 17, 2014


first post, in a way.

(I think I'm becoming obsessed with virginal posts)

I want to write tonight about Aaron Swartz. This is a bit of a dangerous subject for someone like me to write on – someone with my disposition, someone who works where I work. (I work with people who knew Aaron Swartz. I never met Aaron Swartz.)

More specifically, I want to write tonight about a passage in Larissa MacFarquhar's retrospective on Aaron. This passage:

In the last years of his life, he decided that he disliked programming, that computers were awful in many ways, and that there were things more interesting than freedom of information. He would have liked to give up computers altogether. In the summer of 2009, he spent a month offline—no computer, no phone; mostly he just sat in his apartment and read—and he always described this month as the happiest of his life.

When I first read this, I was inspired. I, too, have had a sneaking suspicion that computers are not all that they are cracked up to be. And this, coming from a whiz kid of the Internet!

So I am trying something similar. Last week, I left my computer and phone at work each night. Granted, I usually left work at 9:00 or 10:00. But I spent more time reading in the evening, rather than crashing through the Internet.

I am conflicted in this conviction (I am writing a blog, after all). This is a grand and wondrous machine I am typing on. And we have done marvelous things with these machines, when we link them up all together.

But they also serve as vehicles for our loneliness and our darkness. It is easy to immerse yourself in the torrent, and wash out with time lost and nothing gained. I am not a very good steward of myself, and sometimes this machine enables me in ways I detest. I don't want to hate myself. The easier thing is to set down the box for a while and walk away.

Well, maybe not the easier thing. But the better thing, I am convinced.

I don't know how long I will keep this up for. These self-imposed programs of self-improvement are notoriously short-lived. But it is a good idea, and I see know reason to wind it down now.

[rereads: 0, edits: made blockquote text size smaller, fixed link]