Hurricane Ike may not be over for a lot of people, but I’m thinking about how I should change my life in response to what happened.
I don’t mean that I’m scarred for life or that I have post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result or anything so melodramatic as that, but this slap on the butt from Mother Nature has made me think. It’s made me think about what I need, what I want and how I spend my time. As I’m sure many have found this week, we need far, far less than we think we do. In many ways, I got along just fine without power. Oh, maybe I cooked a bit more meat and ate a bit more in general than usual, but I got to read more and sleep more than I usually do. And, at this point, I’ve gone without cable long enough that I’m starting to wonder why I still keep it. I mean, I say that I have it for the History Channel and Discovery and IFC and the Sci-Fi Channel, but I’m not sure that’s really true anymore. For one thing, I haven’t watched a whole program on either the History Channel or Discovery without some kind of interruption in so long I can’t remember. And, honestly, most of the movies I watch on IFC are available through Netflix anyway. And, really, I’ve gotten so tired of what the Science-Fiction Channel has become – the Ghost Buster Channel or the Cryptozoology Channel or something worse. So, why do I hold onto this video pacifier? Have I gotten so afraid of peace and quiet and, possibly, even my own thoughts that I have to keep background noise going all the time?
For the longest time, I’ve worried that I suckle at the glass teat so long that I would starve without it. And, yet, it’s a love/hate relationship we have. I feel somewhat compelled to watch it, but, at the same time, I feel like it sucks so much of my productive time away from me that I’d be better off without it. If I spent half the time I wasted watching television cleaning my house, or re-working my home network, or writing, well, I’d probably be famous by now. You know what I did most of last weekend? I read. Yeah, I ended up reading two entire books last weekend and almost half that time was spent reading by flashlight! So, without any of the “conveniences” of modern, high-tech life, I was more productive and more rested than I am when I’m totally plugged-in and choking on information over-load. But, of course, that’s not a new theme, is it? I mean, people have been telling us that for a long time now, right? How we should un-plug and tap into our full attention and focus. I have to admit, though, that, while I heard that and thought I understood the principle, I’ve never tried to put it into practice or had an opportunity like this forced on me. Now, I have.
So, here’s what I’m thinking. I’m thinking that what I need to do is cancel cable. I need to take that roughly $100 a month and save it. When I have enough, I’m going to buy all the bits and pieces for a Linux-based multimedia computer. Something that can rip and burn DVDs, that has a Dolby-capable sound card worthy of a home theater system, that has a high-quality video card with HDMI output I can hook up to my HDTV, that has a remote and a wireless keyboard and mouse, and, maybe, that has a television decoder on it. Obviously, it’ll need a truckload of hard drive storage and the maximum amount of RAM. Oh, and a nice, high-speed connection to the network so I can grab stuff from YouTube and other video sites, not to mention weather data in hurricane season and, possibly, to get to Netflix for “instant” movies, too. It actually won’t be all that expensive, and probably not as time-consuming to create as has seemed to me in the past. Besides, I know people have done similar things before so there’s got to be a HowTo on it out there somewhere. And, I’m equally sure that someone has given this enough thought that I won’t have to figure out which distro is best, either! Ha! Sometimes not being on the cutting edge can, in fact, work to one’s advantage!
But, beyond all that, I hope that having fewer distractions, or at least taking a tighter rein on my regular distractions, will help me focus more on writing, too. Ironically, saving money by canceling cable may also enable me to earn more money by writing fiction, like I’ve always said I wanted to do! How funny would that be!
That shift is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. I guess more so since doing Habitat for Humanity a couple weekends ago, or maybe even as far back as when I was told my lymphoma was in remission. I want to be less of a consumer and more of a producer. I want to make more than I use, to contribute more than I take. Right now, today, I don’t think that’s true, but I think I can change that. More importantly, I know, deep in my bones, down in that place that even Death himself can’t touch, that I want to make that change. I need to make that change, to give more than I get.
I’ve dodged so many theoretical bullets and gotten so many second chances that, were I superstitious, I’d say it was some force, some being, some power in the Universe, trying to tell me something. As if God Himself were nudging me in a direction, toward the light, toward the positive. Some of you reading this may not believe in that, and that’s okay with me, but I know something has been working for my personal good, even amidst the danger, sorrow and tragedy, to keep me safe and to keep me coming out okay. And, no matter what you believe, I know that whatever that force or power is, call it God if you wish, that energy wants me to work toward the good of others with whatever meager skill and talent I may feel I possess.
So, what does it all mean?
Hell if I know. All I know is that right now, the way I live my life, while not damaging to anyone else, it’s not worth much to me, either. I’m just coasting. Gliding through life on the energy of others or just circumstances. I want to live a life worth living, a life worth the efforts M. D. Anderson spent trying to keep going. To do that, I need to change. Not much, really, just a little. The difference between giving more than I take is just a hair’s breadth.
But, that small margin makes all the difference in the world.