While we wait…

While we wait, the world spins. Tweets flood my screen by the second, as the revolutionary flame spreads, earthquake strikes, bookstore chain bankrupts, oil prices rise, Joan Didion fell and broke her collarbone, John Keats died today 190 years ago, iPad 2 comes out March 2, Oscars countdown begins. My head hurts.

The more I’m connected, the more the distress. But I still avoid falling into the escapist trap claiming ‘ignorance is bliss’. I think of it as the price to pay as a citizen of the world. Will I feel better not knowing about those dying on the streets revolting against a dictator, or that hundreds are buried in the rubbles of their homes, even when they are thousands of miles from me? Is it better not knowing? The answer is obvious.

With a series of uprising that started with a Tunisian fruit vendor setting fire to himself in protest, it’s all about a voice being heard. Thousands of miles away in the 5th most liveable city of the world, I sit comfortably on my couch checking tweets and blogging away. It almost feels surreal.

But as I listened to an interview about how people braved death to go out on the streets, I began to see the significance of this receiving end. If it’s about a voice being heard, we who are on the other side of the world are doing just that… we’re hearing that voice, and witnessing the domino effects. Sure, there are more practical ways to participate in the cause of democracy, or to help the victims of earthquakes, or to support surviving booksellers… but we who are merely checking our tweets, reading articles, and watching news clips are hearing those voices. Our awareness is a form of participation, the least we can do. A beginning.

Despite joining Twitter recently, I’m still an advocate of slow blogging. Opposites juxtapose in this postmodern world. While I’m checking out news feeds and relevant articles as quickly as time allows, I am slowly digesting and mulling over their content, and listening carefully to the multiple voices speaking out.

The world spins at a speed I can’t control. But it’s in stillness that I can make some sense of it. The voices deserve my quiet attention.

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

20 thoughts on “While we wait…”

  1. Your first paragraph feels to me (note: feels) like a perfect example of the problem I have with twitter. Everything is equal, and there’s no way to sift through the piles and piles of tweets and re-tweets without spending unbelievable amounts of time.

    As a matter of fact, Joan Didion herself who addressed this issue in her White Album – not Twitter, of course, but the sense of displacement and disorientation that comes from being on the receiving end of too much random information.

    This isn’t a criticism or rejection of what you say, only a suggestion of something I wonder about – is pure reception the same as participation? I need to dig around for an article I read about Twitter not too long ago. The position being taken was that it’s followers-and-followed structure is inherently authoritarian and “top-down”. I’m not sure that’s right, but I need to find the article before I go any farther with the point.

    I do know this – there are people I’ve taken off my “follow” list because they were flooding my page with unbelievable numbers of tweets – as many as a hundred or more a day. There are days when I don’t feel connected on Twitter, I feel alienated. I need to think about that.


    1. Linda,

      Yes, I think I’ve read JD’s view somewhere before, and also there’s the review of Sherry Turkle’s new book Alone Together here.

      While you know my stance about the spurious connectedness social media can project, I’m also aware how powerful cyber networking has become. What’s more, I’m excited that I can use these tools to (try to at least) stay informed in this rapidly changing world. One thing that’s always under your control on Twitter is: you can choose who to follow. And if you’re bombarded with trivialities that you don’t need, you can instantly ‘unfollow’, which you’d done.

      Of course, it takes a humungous amount of time and discernment to sift through all the feeds and judge the relevance of each article, I appreciate how readily accessible they are though, which so precisely conveys the notion of “feeds”. And to allow a bit of autonomy on your end, you can see it as a buffet, where you can select what you eat. 😉



  2. I sank gratefully into this post , Arti. Not just for the excellence of your prose, but the perspective you brought to a topic that too often invokes frustration or, as you pointed out, a form of averting-the-eyes escapism.
    You’ve said it just right. We are listening, and bear witness, even if that does not or cannot always translate into some kind of active assistance.

    I have just gone to read your post on Slow Blogging and now I understand why reading you has such a pleasureable effect on me. You have something measured and thoughtful to say – reflection and intelligence informs what you write. You’re a real meal, not just a sweet pick-me-up.

    I don’t post very often, and part of the reason is that I am less and less willing to be trite or thoughtless about what I write. While I don’t have any illusions about the importance of what I write, I want it to be, at least, something that’s been turned over and examined a few times before I set it out to be read. The slow blogging idea feels just right, and relieves me a bit a little because, despite my gut feeling, I also had a nagging suspicion that I was just irregular, or not cut out for writing publicly.
    Thank you for such an excellent start to my day, Arti.


    Thanks again for your kind words. I went back to my ‘Slow Blogging’ post and updated the ‘Manifesto’ link… it’s working now. As for the ‘long take’, the film ‘Flight of the Red Balloon’ is shot in Paris. If you have the chance to watch it, you might be able to identify some of the locations there. You might be interested in other ‘slower’ style films listed on my sidebar.



  3. I enjoyed reading this perspective Arti. I have a friend who is living in Israel and she sends me news that doesn’t seem to make it to the states real well. I think awareness is good instead of sticking our heads in the sand.


    News directly from inside can be so different than what we hear in the media. You’re fortunate to know a first-hand witness.



  4. I am often completely overwhelmed with the news at it comes in. That feeling of being “connected” is both a blessing and a curse. However, I’d rather be informed than not know what is going on.


    You’re totally right: ‘both a blessing and a curse’ they seem. And we on the receiving end have to spend so much time sifting through them all.



  5. Your final paragraph says it all for me. Only in stillness is it possible to make sense of the world. And yet, in today’s world–spinning madly on its axis–that quiet, necessary attention is hard to come by. I am grateful that you have it.


    I admit it’s reading your post ‘Tired’ that prompted me to write this post. Thanks for the poetic rendering.



  6. I relate to this great post on many levels, Arti.

    I was feeling overwhelmed too. I was going to write a post called “Accumulation” about just how much has piled up, and how does a person keep up, let alone “survive” it all? Then I meditated on “The Song of the Lark” and that beautiful painting lifted me above the chaotic feelings I had.

    I love your article on slow blogging. It speaks to what I feel and ask myself constantly, What is the pace I want in my blog? I think that as long as we each follow our hearts about it, and not some outer voice we think we hear, then we’ll be fine.

    As for the protests, I completely agree with you that even here at a distance our encouragement is participation. I remember when I started my Twitter account in 2009, only to find out more about the happenings surrounding the elections in Iran, how moved and enspirited the people of Iran were by the interest of us in the West. Since reading that, I have felt that supporting these movements however we can, even “just” in spirit, is extremely important. I heard on NPR that people around the world, in countries like Tunisia, Egypt and India, have been ordering pizzas to be delivered to the protestors at the state capitol in Wisconsin. The message is loud and clear! “We support you in your protesting efforts!” I also hear a whisper: “It’s about time.” 🙂 There will be a supporting protest at our Michigan state capitol tomorrow, but I won’t be able to go, since I am going north to help my sister. But I will be there in spirit, and that matters, I feel.

    Thank you for this.


    1. Ruth,

      I’ve enjoyed your Lark post, both the painting and RVW’s music. The arts and literature offer us some of the best kinds of solace for quiet mulling. It’s almost like a luxury, to be able to slow down and be still in our uber busy lives. But of course we must strive to regain some sense of solitude, and strangely enough, blogging affords that kind of luxury.

      Yes, during the revolution in Egypt, I was just blown away by the immediacy Twitter could offer. And since you mentioned Iran, I do hope that all these current uprisings would not lead to unrealized dreams as in that country.


  7. This is a beautiful post, Arti, full of thoughts to consider. I suppose I’m a slow thinker rather than a slow blogger, in that a little bit of the outside world gives me so much to process mentally and emotionally, that I have to take my time over it and discriminate amongst my sources. But I completely agree with the principle that listening and witnessing are better than ignorance, although when it’s possible, I do think action is the best of all.


    I’m more and more convinced that ‘slowness’ is a virtue in this ephemeral and instant world we’re in. Other than ‘slow blogging’, there are also those sharing the idea of ‘slow cooking’, and ‘slow reading’. All good, I say.



  8. I’ve been so very overwhelmed these days. The public funding for the TV station where I work (and other PBS stations) is in jeopardy and it seems as though I am chained to email or the phone — answering viewer questions, directing them to the right places, talking with media or arranging interviews. The other part of my job is managing social media for my station — I am on our 7 facebook sites constantly and should be on our Twitter sites more. I just have trouble “getting” twitter — for things like revolutions, it seems like a wonderful tool. I haven’t figured out where it fits in for me, as an individual. I feel confused — and I can’t slow down.

    It all moves too fast. Email comes in at an astounding rate. I want to get about and visit blogs but by the time I get home, I can’t seem to anchor myself at the computer again. I watch the news, partly in horror, partly in frustration, partly inspired.

    I find it amazing that within about a month’s time, two countries have overturned their governments and a third is on the way, though the process is far more brutal. Meanwhile, I sit in my little cocoon and think, “And you’re worried about funding for public television? Get real.”

    For me, seeing the revolutions brings it home as to how fortunate we are. On Sunday night I’ll sit in my comfy living room, holding the cat, maybe knitting (maybe not) as I watch the talented and the not-so glitter down the red carpet to get awards for their roles in entertainment. And I’ll love every minute. But I’m not sure those faces I see on the news a few hours before will go away…


    1. jeanie,

      We’re certainly witnessing history in the making. I sure hope that the change will be improved quality of life in a more democratic society. As I’m typing this, I’m watching newscast on TV showing Libyan women out on the streets demanding Gaddafi to step down, an act that’s unthinkable just a few weeks ago. And you’re right, in a couple of days, our attention will be turned to Oscar tweets and feeds, our eyes glued to the TV screen for Oscar coverage. Incompatible? Well yes and no. Without freedom of expression, entertainment and the arts would not survive. All the more for us not to take for granted or abuse our rights and privileges.


  9. Lovely post Arti! I completely agree that while it is important to be connected and bear witness it is equally important to take the time to quietly contemplate what it all means. The quiet part is so easy to skip but so completely necessary to do.


    Thanks for your ‘slow blogging’ post in Nov. 2008. It was there that I first knew of the ‘movement’. It’s harder to find a quiet time and place where we can do some independent thinking nowadays, but ever so needed.



  10. Arti- such contrast…hadn’t thought of it like this…
    Yesterday I nearly reached maximum load with input: PC, email, phone and IM all gong off at once AND someone standing in the doorway.
    But how provincial that is….I need to “do” the worldview. Thanks for this. and btw, I am hoping to get set up on Twitter tomorrow!


    1. oh,

      The surreal thing is, as we tweet about the Oscars, news feeds about Libya and other places will still be coming in. Make you feel like you can be in different places at the same time.

      And to all, follow me on Twitter Sunday Oscar night: Arti_Ripples. Let me know your user name so I can hear your voice too. Yes, it’s all about being heard. Type in #Oscars to have your say in an even larger forum.


  11. Micheline,

    You’ve brought up a good point, that is, what we can do right here in our city. As you’ve shared, writing to our politicians to press for action is one of the ways… as well as helping those in need in our communities such as your Sudanese refugees. I’ve heard one of the ‘Lost Boys’ from Sudan talk in an ESL teachers conference a few years ago. I was very moved by what he shared: walking hundreds if not thousands of miles on foot to safety in another country, all children randomly banded together as they escaped a civil war, with no adults leading them. His story continued here in Canada, how he started a new life, got an education, and became a contributing member of society. I’ve also seen a news coverage of another one of those ‘Lost Boys’ now running for a seat in the town council in Brooks, Alberta. You’ve brought up a good point too: often ESL teachers are the front-line workers in helping them to a new start.

    Thank you for sharing.


  12. This is a thought provoking post. I guess I am slow at blogging as I only post once a week. I don’t try to wait to get inspiration so that my writing will be a piece of art – I would be unable to achieve this in the English language, but I try to spend more time reading my facts so as not to make mistakes in my posts. I have a list of many posts I plan to write and as I find more information on their subjects, I keep them on documents. Now about events – I talked with my first cousin who was in California when I visited two weeks ago. He is Egyptian from Cairo. He told me that Mubarak would have fallen a long time ago if it were not for the support of the US. Unfortunately the US foreign policy is not really to help freedom in those countries, it is to help the interests of the multi-national corporations – it always comes down to money. The US media does not do a good job at explaining foreign relations then the people here wonder why the US is not liked abroad in many countries. I feel sorry that we have delayed other people’s freedom in so many places in the world. I just ordered a book on the history of Hawaii as I found out, while talking with Hawaiians there, that what I thought I knew is totally wrong.


    1. Vagabonde,

      You know, despite being a slow blogger, my post topics usually come to me at the spur of the moment. So I admit I don’t have a list of future posts. But like you, I usually post once a week to allow responses, and my interests are eclectic. I’ve been to your Hawaii post, which is so rich and beautiful. I must go back to read a few more times.

      Regarding the US role in putting or supporting those leaders in the countries where they’re exp. uprising, remember during the revolution in Egypt, the people kept appealing to Obama to tell Mubarak to go. They knew very well who had the power to get these dictators out. Having said that, I must say too that it’s risky to have a vacuum in the country’s leadership or to arouse civil war as a result of these uprisings… Libya is the case in point. The situation is often very complex, involving not just ‘freedom of the people’ but economics and political stability as well. (And of course you’re right, some of the key elements are corporate interests and oil.) I’m afraid that freedom and prosperity may not necessarily be the results of these revolutions. But of course we hope for the best for all of them.



  13. The way you write is just so inspiring, Arti. Your last words, “The world whirls at a speed I can’t control. But it’s in stillness that I can make some sense of it. The voices deserve my quiet attention.” .. just connect with you so much here. A dear friend of mine was trying just yesterday to convince me to sign up with Twitter. She was giving me these really wonderful arguments, and I told her, I do exactly know I would love Twitter, but I also know that if I started I won’t be able to stop and that I’d probably end up in front of the computer for most of the day and then won’t be able to play with my children or cook or clean the house or even read. In these manic times, the only way we can deal is to learn how to sift. Sift through activities, information, most especially what we read. Don’t you ever wish you had a remote control like what Adam Sandler had in Click? I’d probably click slow motion all the time. 🙂


    1. kiss a cloud,

      I’m still learning to be a user of technology and not being used. And you’re right, the more we’re connected, the harder it is to manage our time and priorities. After joining Twitter, yes, I’ve spent much more time facing the screen. But since I choose who to follow, mostly news feeds on currents events, books and arts, I can be selectively informed… usually ignoring a lot of the tweets if they do flood my screen, choosing to read the articles that I think are more important for me.

      Also, I’ve taken up a habit recently, and that’s taking my book and going to a nearby library to just read. There’s a corner where they have couches and sofas. I’d sit there and read for a couple of hours, focusing only on my book and nothing else. One time sitting across me was a young man, looked like a student, wearing iPod earbuds. He started to read a book from its beginning. I glanced at him every now and then, and noted his concentration, page after page he turned, and after about two hours, he finished what looked like a 300-page hardcover book. It was such a motivating sight! He probably read in a speed that’s four times of mine… but what an inspiration.


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