Dervish

“Sometimes I don't want to see the puppeteers, sometimes I just want to see the magic therein, and sometimes I just want to pry open the atoms and know why they spin.”

Standing in line, it’s hard to resist the impulse to pull out a phone or iPod and simply noodle the time away. It comes, I guess, from the instinct that’s been driven into us since we first set foot in school: to make the best use of our time. The line is a model of organized inefficiency, fully realized. Our search for productive alternatives to standing becomes a quest for meaning, transforming our web-enabled gadgets into a lifeline to the outside.

It’s a reality that I can’t comprehend. I’m stuck on a dilapidated phone that can’t understand the web. I pine for the escape offered by swanky 3G handsets, bitterly ruing the limitations before me, lamenting the sorry state of the bank account that keeps this wish out of reach.

Standing in a 15-person line at CostCo, shopping cart full of processed snack foods and individually frozen meats, it becomes clear how many of my peers buy into the escape. iPhones, Droids, and all other manner of chatty, touch-beckoning beveled squares dominate the landscape. Fingers swipe and prod and pinch incessantly, impatiently, at invisible items. Those who haven’t cut visual ties with the world are lost in an auditory sea of seclusion, signified by the cords that dangle from their ears and the slight sway that dominates their bodies.

And just ahead of me is a little girl who exists outside all of this.

She seems to be about five or six. I’m terrible with ages, but I can’t imagine she’s out of the first grade. While everyone is off playing with their toys, she’s whirling madly about in place. She twirls and twirls about, stopping every few revolutions to stare vacantly into space. A sweet, goofy smile melts over her face every time. I can imagine that she’s enjoying the sight of the world reeling in front of her. A few moments later, she starts up again, giggling, as she gyres into a whirlwind of energy and youth. She constructs joy from the barren landscape around her. As a counterpoint to everyone who is busy reaching out to a walled garden of information, reaching out to a community that is paradoxically open and exclusive, she reaches inwards and projects herself for all the world to see. And she does so with absolute grace and certainty.

I look back over the crowd, bathed in a 3:2 pallid glow, in awe at how the imagination of a child can trump industries that pull in billions of dollars. I can only guess to what kind of arabesque twists the sea before me could accomplish, if they could only make better use of their little inconveniences.

Comments

Add another little girl about 2 1/2, and you have my daughters.

No matter how much I think that spinning in place is silly and stupid, the amount of laughter, smiles, giggles and joy that they show when twirling never fails to put a smile on my face.

It also makes me sad that I have lost the ability to find as much pleasure in the simple things that they can.

IMAGE(http://data.tumblr.com/v8Y1VvbEma2efk3vWvg3NmQm_400.gif)

I don't have anything to add, except thank you for putting into words something I've seen so often (at CostCo, even). Purty words, too.

Sometimes I'm glad I have a dumbphone. It's nice to have some time to just think and observe once in a while.

As soon as I learn how to send a text and play Angry Birds by spinning around in circles capriciously, I'll be doing that.

I still enjoy spinning in place, especially in office chairs. No time for that now, though, I have to get back to work...

Spinning in place to make yourself dizzy is a drug for people too young for drugs. I used to while away entire evenings with it when I was between 6 and 8 or so. Guess what I spent most of my time in college doing.

Step 1: Write iPhone app that calculates the speed and frequency at which you are spinning, and awards points accordingly.
Step 2: ?
Step 3: PROFIT!

That is a great article, thank you. It speaks perfectly my thoughts about my niece a few weeks back. At the age of thirty I watch this four year old in wonder at the ability to get lost in her imagination.

I've read that Miyamoto signs his autograph to children with "On sunny days, play outside." This girl knows the value of that sentiment.

Thanks, Alex. This article brought a smile to my face. I guess I'm not too old to remember what that was like, despite how I usually feel.

Wow. And that's how you blow my mind. An astute observation of the times we live in, eloquently expressed.

Spinning around in place??!?!?!??! Is there an app for that?

Part of my mental Children's Manifesto includes:

Section ?: The right to be bored.

Boredom is not always possible for adults, but denying it to children is unconscionable. Boredom is the mother of ingenuity. Boredom leads to exploration as well as introspection. Boredom allows one to see the world as it is in all it's mundane detail.

Boredom is spinning in place to feel dizzy.

I shudder to think about the world my son is in, where his boredom might be alleviated at a moment's notice.

Beautifully done. Especially biting too since I read it on my iPhone while I was multitasking. Ungh.

Spaz wrote:

You can unlock you iPhone, but you can't unlock your imagination.

Quick, someone find a picture of David Caruso putting on his glasses.

IMAGE(http://img20.imageshack.us/img20/547/32221950.jpg)

You can unlock you iPhone, but you can't unlock your imagination.

Quick, someone find a picture of David Caruso putting on his glasses.

VvV
Welp. That's it, internet. You've had a good run, but there's no topping this peak.
Kudos, sir.

hbi2k wrote:

Spinning in place to make yourself dizzy is a drug for people too young for drugs. I used to while away entire evenings with it when I was between 6 and 8 or so. Guess what I spent most of my time in college doing.

Oh man, that reminds me of: "When you're a kid and you wanna go whee, but you ain't got drugs yet, hold on for your life."

Certis wrote:

Beautifully done. Especially biting too since I read it on my iPhone while I was multitasking. Ungh.

Make sure to flush after you're done "multitasking."

wordsmythe wrote:
Certis wrote:

Beautifully done. Especially biting too since I read it on my iPhone while I was multitasking. Ungh.

Make sure to wash your hands after you're done "multitasking."

And a disinfectant wipe of the phone wouldn't hurt either.

Part of the reason why I use George Carlin as my little picture on the left there is because his appreciation of things like imagination and thinking. He once said that adults could use a little daydreaming from time to time. Just sitting somewhere, staring off into space for a few hours.

Both Carlin and Alex make the same point, and it is a great point. We do not have to be constantly in go-go-go mode. I find time in long lines or time spent sitting on the toilet to be great for simple reflection.

And of course, some our best ideas come from time spent on the toilet.

It's not the technology, per se. It's the mindset. You don't have to go full-on Luddite.

My favorite game at Costco is waiting for someone's phone to ring and watching everyone in a 10 meter radius start pawing at their pockets/purse and looking at their own phone, even if they don't have that as their ringtone. A really good one ripples across that big middle area with all the clothes and books like a suburban hipster version of The Wave. It makes me chuckle every time.

Puddle stomping on rainy days, or kicking through piles of fallen leaves in the fall are also very important. Bonus points if you're being a really bad example for a little kid who is watching.

momgamer wrote:

Stomping on ... or kicking through piles of [the] fallen are also very important. Bonus points if you're being a really bad example for a little kid who is watching.

Perhaps I read this with the wrong mindset.

mudbunny wrote:

Add another little girl about 2 1/2, and you have my daughters.

No matter how much I think that spinning in place is silly and stupid, the amount of laughter, smiles, giggles and joy that they show when twirling never fails to put a smile on my face.

It also makes me sad that I have lost the ability to find as much pleasure in the simple things that they can.

Mine starts at 11months and the second at 2.5years.

The secret is to get up there and start spinning with them, then it's not so hard to find the pleasure in what they're doing.

Some of the best interactions with my two daughters have finshed with 'my daddy is a silly daddy' from the eldest, and the younger monkey clapping like an idiot, and giving me a smile that looks like it will split her head in two.

Great article. Only further strengthens my resolve to keep technology away from these two for as long as I possibly can.

wordsmythe wrote:
momgamer wrote:

Stomping on ... or kicking through piles of [the] fallen are also very important. Bonus points if you're being a really bad example for a little kid who is watching.

Perhaps I read this with the wrong mindset.

No, I think you read that with the perfect mindset.

momgamer wrote:

My favorite game at Costco is waiting for someone's phone to ring and watching everyone in a 10 meter radius start pawing at their pockets/purse and looking at their own phone, even if they don't have that as their ringtone. A really good one ripples across that big middle area with all the clothes and books like a suburban hipster version of The Wave. It makes me chuckle every time.

And your description made me laugh.

momgamer wrote:

Puddle stomping on rainy days, or kicking through piles of fallen leaves in the fall are also very important. Bonus points if you're being a really bad example for a little kid who is watching.

I would never do that. /looks away to hide diaboloical smile.

This thread reminds me to by a portable phone jammer.

It's not just for lectures anymore!

Buying "The Oregon Trail" for $7 on my crappy phone was both a great investment and a terrible investment, for the reasons outlined in this article.

I have to think part of the reason this girl is so carefree is because she's only 5. The parent matrix hasn't yet overscheduled her with league sports, piano lessons, SAT tutoring, etc. My mom was ahead of the Gen Y curve and constantly had to have me in some kind of activity. I remember getting a stern lecture because I dilly-dallied on the way home one beautiful spring day instead of rushing in the door.

Let's face it, our whole culture is obsessed with productivity. We need to be achieving even when we're technically "at play."

jdzappa wrote:

Let's face it, our whole culture is obsessed with productivity. We need to be achieving even when we're technically "at play."

That just made me rethink how 'great' my personal milestone of 2000 achievements was on my 360 that popped up on TA yesterday.

Damn.

m0nk3yboy wrote:
jdzappa wrote:

Let's face it, our whole culture is obsessed with productivity. We need to be achieving even when we're technically "at play."

That just made me rethink how 'great' my personal milestone of 2000 achievements was on my 360 that popped up on TA yesterday.

Damn.

To be fair, it's not productive. Fight the system!