The other day I wrote the following poem at work:
Oh why, oh why would you torture me so?
You tease me over and over
confirming the notion that, yes—
Absence by all means makes the heart grow fonder.
I cannot focus for thinking of you
wondering when you will return
and what thrilling gifts may accompany you.
I know in my head that I’m bound to be disappointed
but, as ever, my heart is not so easily persuaded.
I ponder especially the reason for your absence
governmental decrees and mean prohibitions—
but one option I refuse to accept:
the possibilty of permanent neglect.
Perhaps your absence is a humbling scheme
to put to the test my ideals
my oft-spoken declaration
that I don’t need you, don’t want you,
that perhaps—I would even be better off without you.
I guess I can’t blame you for belaboring your point
but I get it now:
Without you my days would be endless
boring, expensive, lacking interest.
Other people just don’t do it for me anymore—
so limited in knowledge, so unentertaining, so dreadfully slow.
So come back please!
I understand now I can’t live without you!
Oh internet, internet—
I’m lost without you.
It's terribly cheesy, I know; I guess that was the point. This parody of a love poem, which I titled--very originally--"Ode to the Internet," not only mocks the melodramatic speech of lovers and our society's love of technology, but also myself.
The day I wrote the poem, the internet was down all day. While I enjoyed reading on the porch during my lunch break--a time that I usually spend writing emails and wasting time online--I also found myself going crazy by about 3:30. As I edited my articles, I missed the convenience of dictionary.com and even--gasp!--wikipedia (which, I might add, contains facts far more reliable than those of many of the articles I am given!); furthermore, I discovered--by their lack--how many breaks I must really take throughout my usual workday and how short my attention span has grown as a result. In fact, I was so bored, so unable to focus, that I resorted to writing sappy poetry.
This is where the self-mockery comes in: I have a self-professed loathing of modern technology.
"Technology," I often rant, "is the downfall of modern society. It is supposed to make life more convenient--but often complicates it. While modern technology enables us to communicate at the mere click of a mouse, it cheapens our relationships; furthermore, it takes away precious time from real relationships.....etc.....etc......(only slightly exaggerated)."
Well, I guess we are all hypocrites sometimes (or I would like to hope I am not the only one)--and this fact has provided me with considerable self-reflection during my already more-than-three-month stay in Ha Noi.
Ideals are great--surely the world would be in (even more) trouble if no one had any--but being here has made me realize how necessary it is to re-evaluate ideals, and maybe even change them, based on one's present context...
In other words: are there ever times when it is right to give up one's ideal for the sake of something else--like building a relationship?
Like making a goal to watch TV with my host sisters (instead of reading a book in my room) because it is one of the few things I can think to do with them, even though my general stance towards TV is that it is a useless and even negative device that is rendering our children incapable of creative thought...
Or, similarly, giving up a ticket to see "A Christmas Carol," at the opera house with my Western friends to watch "New Moon" at the Vincom Towers (i.e. the very Westernized Ha Noi version of a shopping mall) with my host sister and four of her 12-year-old friends...
Or going shopping with my host mom even though--aside from the fact that I hate shopping to begin with--I am disturbed by how much Western consumerism has already taken over in the 20 years since Viet Nam has opened its doors, and I try not to advocate it...
Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating hypocrisy. Or giving up ideals because they are unpopular, old-fashioned, or "unrealistic"--I am a pacifist, after all.
Rather, I suppose I am warning against having ideals for ideal's sake alone. Because sometimes we unknowingly build walls with our ideals, or judge other people based on them, and forget that we are not called to judge others, or even to uphold ideals per se; we are called to love, and if our ideals inhibit that, then maybe they need to be re-considered.
Besides, even technology has its merits: I recently discovered a cool example of technology being used for a good cause (this good cause being more than my amusement when I need a break from poorly translated English): World Next Door.
And without it, you wouldn't be reading this right now (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether this is a benefit or a flaw.. ). :)