Alvin and the chipmunks, the movie series, brought alive a different world! the world of chipmunks. Chipmunks are from the squirrel family and have impish energy to themselves that is an easy allure. The movie brought them more sheen. I like them for a different reason. There is something that is common between the chipmunks and me.
Chipmunks hibernate. Or so I thought. They shut down and conserve energy. Then I learnt that they don’t actually hibernate. They get into ‘torpor’. There is a difference between hibernation and torpor. Let’s leave it at, torpor is ‘hibernation-lite’. Heres an excerpt from an interesting essay that I read. “torpor is a survival tactic used by animals to survive the winter months. It also involves a lower body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolic rate.”
First, torpor is a survival tactic. It lasts for brief spells. Chipmunks and me share torpor. My version of torpor has been to go silent on social platforms. Twitter. Instagram. Facebook and such else.
A nightmare as a trigger.
It started with a nightmare I had one night, a few months back. My recollections of the nightmare are blurred and brief. All I know is that I woke up with a start. In that nightmare, friends appeared. They sported bright red straw hats marching to a tune from a horror movie. A horror movie that was badly made too. There was venom in their tongue and they kept dipping into a bucket full of poison and smearing it on people. They told me it is a game and invited me to play while jiving to a wicked war dance number.
I remember waking up with a start and don’t remember other parts of the nightmare.
Over the next few weeks, there were other pressing demands placed on my calendar. The intensity of my work and some waves of hospital visits due to family requirements made it apparent that I had to work things differently. Logging out of most social media and reorganising my time was easy picking.
This isn’t the first time. For the past couple of years, I take 2-3 weeks that I shut down and maintain some level of silence online. It is far from something grand and sexy like a ‘detox’. Closer to being weary, accompanied by a sense of loss and nostalgia of the good old early days of social media and the internet.
This year, my silence was more pronounced. I would barely surface to write The OWL Despatch, the newsletter for Founding Fuel and a clutch of other commitments like this one. This so happens to be the times of the Coronavirus and the recommendation of social distancing. I am clear that social distancing in the real world does not merit a universal embracing of everything in the social media world. In fact, the social media world has to be handled with even more care now.
Noticing my noticing.
Looking back, I have wrested peace from the jaws of ceaseless online noise. Vainglory with a veneer of humility. Shameless bigotry, bias and bile. Fake news. All worn with pride. Medal worthy epaulettes if you will.
When the apps are off the phone and the phone is off my palms there are other things that I am more present to. The love of colour and fear of the that keeps my daughter company. The extra wrinkle in an elder’s face. Kids of neighbours who suddenly seemed taller when I see them in elevators. I have been noticing that I have been noticing far more! Including the receding sounds of chatter in my mind.
As I resurface this time, the terms I have set for myself are stiffer. There is an abundant realisation that what gets into my stream of attention should not be only stuff of use, but stuff that keeps me sane. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Linkedin. WhatsApp. All the same. So I have been on a hacking spree. Unfollow. Mute. Exit. Reorganise WhatsApp presence in groups. A few are fun. Some are useful. I have lost count of the useless.
I resurface yet again from torpor. There is a feeling of greater peace and a sense of what it means to live.
The quiet time has also given me a sense of peace and added to layers of depth to writing and reading. I have plans to read more books than last year and indulge in better conversations face to face. So what if it they are mediated by technology. More writing too!
For all the lovely folks who reached out and checked if everything was alright, well, thank you. Your mails, texts and calls meant a lot. These days, I am ever so lighter in the mind and wish I could transfer this lightness to the body as well. That is a different story!