The Dope’s guide to instant indolence

The Luddites were a swinging lot — in some cases, literally.

They were weavers in early 19th- century England, which was a highly skilled and highly paid profession. When machine looms started to take over, they found themselves about to become vocational has-beens.

What to do?

First, they organized secretly, under the leadership of a mythical Ned Ludd. Then, rather than going gently into that bad night, they fought back. They raided the weaving factories, smashing looms and raising hell in general.

The British government, exhibiting exemplary restraint and empathy for the displaced working man, responded by gleefully running them to ground and hanging a bunch of them. Others they generously shipped to scenic Australia.

So while they didn’t last, their name did. “Luddite” is still used as a disparaging term for someone who opposes technological changes.

I’ve been called a Luddite, but I’m not. Instead, I’d like to think I use technology rationally. Some technologies I need; some I don’t need. And hopefully I can tell the difference twixt the two.

Take, for example, modern medicine. No matter how much I wax nostalgic about The Good Old Days, nothing about its medical technology appeals to me. Nor should it, for without open heart surgery (unknown then, but now common, if not taken for granted,) I’d be sending this column into the Enterprise via Ouija Board rather than computer.

On the other hand, there’s television. A cogent quote from David Frost: “Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your home.”

There might’ve been some room to debate this point — till the advent of reality TV.

Hittin’ the cyberskids

I do have a computer, and it’s been a real asset. I use it mostly for email and looking up stuff on the internet. Always a curious lad, before computers, if I wanted to look up something I had to do it with print media. If I couldn’t get my hands on the book or article, I was lost. Now, Cyberworld is my library, and in it I can find the answer to any question I have (except, of course, why we always come back from the laundromat minus one sock).

All that said, I’m hardly a 21st century kind of guy. I like lots of old timey things. I don’t like any style that came after Art Deco, and no cars were better looking than our jalopies of the ’50s. I love to travel on trains, and I mourn America’s death of railroads. I write with a fountain pen and navigate with a compass, not a GPS.

My main entertainments are reading, drawing, wood carving and burning, and I do a lot of all three. At least, I did a lot of them till the last six months. Then I noticed I was hardly getting any of them done.

It was weird. All my life I’ve been a compulsive reader. During vacations, I averaged two to three books a week; when I worked, I almost always knocked off a book a week. But of late I noticed I’d take out a 14-day book from the library and by the time it was due, I still hadn’t finished it.

And it was the same with my other hobbies. I did precious few of them, and the ones I did seemed to take forever to finish. Lots of days I’d say to myself in the morning, “I’m gonna do X, Y and Z … and by nightfall I’d done X if I was lucky. Typically, I’d done doodle.

What gave?

Was I suffering from some rare anti-motivation disorder? Was I doing all sorts of other interesting things instead? Was I being controlled by dybbuks?

No! No. And no!

So what was it? What in the previous six months had come into my life that’d put the kibosh on my leisure time activities?

The only addition to my life in the past six months was an iPad. But that couldn’t disrupt my life so much, could it?

You bet your bip it could … and it did!

I never realized any of this till last week, when my iPad buggered up and I had to take it to Jim Minnie at Onsite Computer Service to have it cleaned out, exorcised, resurrected or whatever he does to get it working again.

Quest for control

At first I didn’t notice anything different with the iPad gone, except it was a lot more of a hassle to sit in front of my computer, a literal pain in the prat. Thus I spent almost no time on the computer. Then a few days later, I noticed something else: I was actually doing things. I’d made a couple of carvings, read a book and two short stories, wrote two letters and did two wood burnings. In three days, I accomplished more with my hobbies than I had in the previous two weeks.

It was no mystery. As I said, because it’s more hassle to use the computer, I use it less. The iPad, however, is beyond easy to use. I sit in my most comfortable chair, coffee by my side, iPad in hands, and tap away on it, repeatedly, endlessly, foolishly. I look up things, just to look them up. What were the Tokens big hits? What year did Krakatoa erupt? Where was the biggest gold strike? And on and on and on.

With my computer, if I had a question, I looked it up and then that was it. With the Ipad, I came up with question … after question … after question – not because it was something I really wanted to know, but just because I could.

Likewise, with my computer, I’d look at Facebook, see there was nothing of interest or importance, and close it. Somehow, with the iPad, I stayed on Facebook. There was still nothing of interest or importance, but I looked at it all anyway. Pictures of people’s breakfast, airing of medical issues, crowing about children, complaining about neighbors.

And worst of all, aside from moronic political screeds and rumor presented as fact, is the Drama Queen Special: Someone posts something of earth-shaking import, for example, “Today was the worst day of my entire life!!!!” Immediately, there are 50 replies: “Can I help you?” “What’s wrong?” “Did you and Bluppo break up?” And then the Drama Queen inevitably replies, “I don’t wanna talk about it.” Doesn’t wanna talk about it; just wants to announce it to the whole frappin world in the vaguest of terms.

But no matter how idiotic I thought those things were, there I was, poring over them all the time, feeling like an idiot myself. And what I was not doing was all the things I like to do, that make me feel good about myself.

The iPad got repaired and returned, and now one big question looms: I know what a waste of time it is for me, but will I be able to control using it, or will I be as addicted to it in the future as I was in the past?

My optimistic self says, “Hey, no sweat, I’m over it!”

My realistic self says, “This is not going to be easy.”

My pessimistic self says, “Getting hung up on that junk again is just a matter of time.”

When I think about it, I keep returning to something my brother the sardonic sage said.

After the iPad was in the shop and I was alight at being back in my hobby groove, I told my brother, “I am really glad I got rid of my iPad.”

“You didn’t get rid of your iPad,” he said. “It got rid of you.”