Inheritable traits & metaphors

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My sister and I, although adequately graceful in most areas of our lives, had the great misfortune of inheriting a particular trait from our father: our nose-blowing, individually but especially collectively, is a high decibel experience. On any given morning in our household, one can hear the demonstration of nasal power. And oh is it powerful. We always likened the noise to that of an elephant (whereas some people sneeze like mice – I do not trust these people). That is, until we were presented with an incredibly apt metaphor, much more accurate than our own:

“Cierra, you know what you sound like when you blow your nose? Like when you drag your suitcase across those metal things at the beginning and the end of escalators.”

Do you guys know what my 11-year-old cousin is talking about? Because she hit the nail right on the head. And instead of mourn my apparent lack of ladylikeness, I thought wow, METAPHORS! LANGUAGE! THIS STUFF IS AMAZING! An elementary schooler just brilliantly described a previously indescribable sound my nose has been making for my entire life.

And it’s just like that, whether it’s funny or gorgeous or melancholy as hell, words can not only envelop but become a feeling (or a noise, for that matter). I’ve found innumerable instances of this just in the past few days, in my second and much more successful attempt to read Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, with whom I proudly share a birthday. I started reading this book in high school and I was wildly unprepared, low in energy and consequently low in the amount of effort I put forth – I didn’t understand a thing and I was disappointed. Four years later, I’m underlining something on every page because these words give me feelings. “He would fall asleep with his heart at the foot of his bed, like some domesticated animal that was no part of him at all.” Excuse me, Jonathan, that is my heart you are breaking.

Not that I’m required to have one, but what is my point? Surprise, there are three.

  1. I think words are really cool and you should think so too.
  2. People say “the right person at the wrong time is the wrong person,” and I think I believe that. But the same cannot be said for books. I’m willing to lump music in there too. The right book or song at the wrong time could still be the right book or song at the right time. And, in all likelihood, the right time will come. Books have chapters and so does life.
  3. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose. I’m not embarrassed about the way I blow my nose.

Also, I got blood drawn today and it took my perfectly competent nurse three painful tries to lure anything out of my itty-bitty, impossible-to-find veins. Even my bloodways are stubborn and somewhat elusive. Cheers to perfect consistency.

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Rant No. 2

You know what I really hate? The way crane flies buzz into my room and just die on the floor. But I’m not going to talk about that today.

A couple months ago, I was very passively involved in/eavesdropping on a conversation about the downfalls of social networks, Facebook in particular. These guys were complaining about the little “what’s on your mind?” box being a platform for people to exhaustively keystroke-vomit each unimportant detail of their lives onto every camp friend and coworker virtually residing on their respective friends lists. Am I right in thinking we all complain about this very thing at one time or another? I know I’m guilty of it. But while I was listening to these guys talk about their concerns, I realized a few of my own.

Not long after this, my mom sent me a NYT article (as she is wont to do) called “How Not to Be Alone” by Jonathan Safran Foer, an author whose brilliance both intrigues and frustrates me. I encourage you to read it, but I promise I won’t cry if you decide not to. Basically, Safran Foer discusses the ever-changing relationship between humanity and technology, and I believe it can be pretty accurately summed up in one sentence from the article: “technology celebrates connectedness, but encourages retreat.” GENIUS. Thank you for that, Jonathan, thank you. (I’m actually not being sarcastic for once in my life, this is legit, guys)

Obviously, I don’t keep my love for the internet a secret. I love reading blogs, watching British people attempt American accents on YouTube, and seeing pictures of my friends on vacation. I try to maintain an aesthetically-pleasing Instagram account; sometimes I retweet Mindy Kaling. I definitely use texting to keep in touch with people, and you are dead-wrong if you think I don’t enjoy it. My point is I’m not anti-technology. I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I’m not one of those people who’s always like “ah, the olden days…” No. I’m not like that. But occasionally I get a little freaked out when I realize how crazily intertwined we, the humans, are becoming with them, the computerthings.

A lot of people say our phones have become “extensions of our arms.” Although that’s poetic and eerie and I like it, I think it focuses too much on the physical aspect – we are always physically on our phones – and not enough on the mental aspect. I find it difficult to concentrate on the simplest things sometimes because I’m like, ooh, I wonder when so-and-so’s gonna text me back about this-or-that. Even when my phone or my computer or whatever is not in my hand, it is on my mind. Ew. I should be thinking of things much more important than a $200 rectangular chunk of glass.

As for the retreat part, oh my god. I mean, pretending to talk on the phone to avoid real conversation. Scrolling through Twitter or whatever to look busy. Plugging in the headphones to tune out all other human beings. Need I say more? That is passivity or retreat out in the real world. In the world where your entire person is condensed to just a string of weird computer coding, it’s a little bit different. Facebook, for example, makes it very possible to “know” someone without ever even speaking to them. You’re not actively getting to know that person by perusing their about page and their likes; there’s no exchange there. And although I can see the good things about texting and facebook statuses and tweets, I think it has become increasingly easy over the years to develop an internet alter ego. I’ve encountered people whose personalities flip a 360 when being conveyed by their thumbs instead of their mouths. Personally, I think that’s kind of a dangerous habit.

I’m definitely not one of those people who has “lost faith in humanity.” Those people are cynics, and if you want to find them, pay a visit to tumblr or something. I’m just… skeptical. I am conscious of the problems skipping hand-in-hand into our lives with the progression of technology, but I don’t think we’re too weak to resist them. Yeah, it’s easy to choose a bright and inviting iPhone screen over potentially awkward interactions with real people. I get it. But when we experience things in reality, in the physical, tangible, human world, those moments become more real, rewarding, and more embedded in our memories – not the memories of our SIM cards.

So. What’s all this mean? Well I, for one, am going to try to be more present. If you want to join me on this little quest, I’d love some company. Also, I would love for someone to come pick up these dead crane flies on my floor, please and thank you.