Wednesday, August 27, 2014

On Privacy

Off the Shelf, 2014

I was flipping through a magazine today, came across an article titled On Privacy, and just stopped and stared at the title, for a long time. I'm not sure if I was originally questioning the meaning of the word privacy, trying to figure out what privacy means to me, or wondering how privacy fits into our culture today, but soon all of these questions were darting about in my mind at once.

So much has changed so rapidly. What we can do with our phones, all we've so quickly learned to take for granted. It's mind boggling.

I know some of it is beneficial, but at what cost? What have we lost?

I cannot stop thinking about Mildred's parlor walls in Fahrenheit 451, her way of distracting herself from the outside world and engaging with others at the same time, all in the privacy of her living room.

Then I think of what I always think of when I'm feeling overwhelmed, the simple mud cabin in The Temptation of Saint Anthony, the pitcher, loaf of black bread, and knife, the description of the sky as the sun sinks. I think of Saint Anthony sitting cross-legged and weaving mats. Flaubert took thirty years to write this book and I think it's time I read it again. In solitude, Saint Anthony does have to deal with his demons and his doubt, but isn't that as it should be?

14 comments:

  1. I find that I grow more protective of my privacy each year, as it seems social media grows more pervasive. I feel like I have to fight for my privacy and my silence more and more.

    What a lovely description of solitude you share!

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    1. Thanks for taking the time to interact here, Samantha. This is what I see as beneficial. I suppose it's a matter of balance, a balance I sometimes find difficult. Working on it.

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  2. amelia from ztastylifeAugust 27, 2014 at 7:28 PM

    It is definitively a constant battle between our self and our ego these days, isn't it? This book goes on my list

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    1. The book is pretty wild. Absolutely nothing like what I believe is his most popular, but not my favorite, Madame Bovary.

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  3. This has been much on my mind. I find myself slowly detaching from the over-interactiveness of our times. Though, that is not so much about 'privacy', which I still have plenty of, but about needing to know less.
    I love your description of Flaubert's solitude - I think I would enjoy the book.

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    1. Trying to balance my curiosity and my desire to sit quietly with what I know already is quite the challenge. Please know that the quiet I describe is only the beginning of the book. It gets pretty crazy, but also very thought provoking.

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  4. I particularly make an attempt to "turn off" at least a few times a week. Even if for just a hour or two...sometimes half a day to let my mind wander. Walking without listening to music or the radio is a good time to do this. It is amazing how one can work out things and how many interesting thoughts come strolling through the mind at these times. Thank you for this post.

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    1. A agree, Teresa. Those quiet walks can be so gratifying and often fruitful. My mind craves wandering.

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  5. I haven't read The Temptation… but now I want to. I actually think we have a lot of control (though not total) over how much privacy we give up in our online lives. It's something I think about a lot though. I think what I have lost is the daydreaming space I used to have. I was in the country this morning, listening to the waterfall and drifting, words popping in my head that might be used in a poem. Thinking about the spaces between musical notes, how I rarely have those any more. That is what my online life is crushing.

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  6. Hi Denise. Here is a privacy poem for you, courtesy of R. Bly
    Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter

    It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
    The only things moving are swirls of snow.
    As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
    There is a privacy I love on this snowy night.
    Driving around, I will waste more time.

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    1. Fabulous, Nancy! I love imagining this cold night on such a warm day.

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  7. I've been thinking a lot about the same sort of things - privacy, how much to put on the internet (my blog, specifically)...
    The end of your post especially struck a chord with me - being alone, and dealing with your demons and doubts. I feel like I'm finally (finally) not so busy that I can do that in my own life.

    Also, I haven't read The Temptation of Saint Anthony (but I loved Madame Bovary) - so now I'll have to read this. After I finish Cortazer's 'Hopscotch', which I'm currently reading :)

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    1. I'm happy to know you've found some quiet time to explore. I will warn you, Madame Bovary and The Temptation of Saint Anthony are so incredibly different you might believe they were written by different authors. I looked up Hopscotch and I'm intrigued. On the list now. Thanks, Joyti!

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