Are we a generation of idiots, smartphones and dumb people?

Remember those days before the world wide web, before social media when we were… well, actually social. We could sit in the same room with someone and chat with them in person rather than via Facebook or Twitter?

I appreciate social media and Skype, living here in the East Neuk of Fife which St Rule regarded as the western ends of the world. It helps me keep in touch, which is better than nothing. But I do love getting together with my friends in real life, which doesn’t happen as much as I’d like.

During this extended period of recuperation from viral meningitis, I have loved spending more time with Jane, Reuben, Joshua and Isaac. Long may that continue.

While I don’t think we’re a generation of idiots, I do think we need to put down our phones a little more often, step out from behind our computer monitors, and engage with the world face-to-face.

And maybe then rush home and micro-blog about it!

Introduction to Poetry

Two light switches

Another poem by Billy Collins.

Introduction to Poetry

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a colour slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

— Billy Collins

On Turning Ten

An old radio

This evening I was listening to Chain Reaction on BBC Radio 4, a show where last week’s interviewee becomes this week’s interviewer. Tonight poet John Hegley interviewed comedian and actor Jack Dee.

It was a fascinating interview, particularly while he was talking about exploring his vocation. At one point he thought he might become a priest but discovered that his true vocation was to the stage. Much to his director of ordinands’ relief.

At the end of the show John Hegley invited Jack Dee (why when writing about famous people can you never just write “… John invited Jack…”?) to read out a favourite poem of his. He chose this one:

On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.

Billy Collins