Friday, November 16, 2007

Pulling the plug

One of the advantages of belonging to the confraternity of nature writers is meeting folks who are better than me at living the values I espouse. It's a steadying influence, and helps keep me on -- or near to -- the straight and narrow.

One of those people is Robert Michael Pyle, bearded sage and butterfly man, author of wonderful books on nature, and columnist for Orion magazine.

His column is called The Tangled Bank, which comes of course from the final paragraph of Darwin's Origin of Species.
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us....There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
Bob gives gentle voice to the grandeur.

His most recent column tells of his decision to cut the electronic cord that connects him to the world. That means no TV, no mobile phone, no e-mail, no home connection to the internet. He writes: "I already weep over all the indoor hours when I could actually be out, combing the moss for waterbears or contemplating where people get the time to read blogs, for gods' sake -- is it at the complete expense of books?" Yikes, Bob, can you really go cold turkey? "Maybe so," he writes. "We'll see..."

I live without TV for most of the year. I don't use a mobile phone. But no internet! How could I write from my special places without access to the electronic universe of information? What would I do each morning with my thoughts if I didn't have my blog?

OK, the answer is obvious. Keep a private journal like I used to. Write my books in solitude and send them out into the world as paper emissaries from the organic world of water bears and moss. I made fun here yesterday of the students who spend their day with a cell phone to their ear. Why then do I feel the need for the instant gratification of e-mail?

Well, never mind. I read Bob Pyle and I resolve to spend an extra half hour walking home this afternoon. But my fingers itch too much for the laptop keys to pull the plug and follow Bob onto the tangled bank. Can he pull it off? We'll see. Good luck, friend.