Traitor To My Time

Do you ever feel out of place in your time? Is the post-modern era just not you?

I don’t mean physically, necessarily, although it’s tempting to look back to a time when one’s personal physique was the ideal and the clothing of the era would actually be becoming. (Note to self: avoid 1920s.)

Do you ever have the feeling that you are out of step with your times, that their values are not yours, and you just don’t fit in?

I feel this quite frequently. I haven’t settled on a preferred piece of history (probably just as well as I couldn’t get there if I did) but I am most definitely not a Thoroughly Modern Millie – or an Ironically Postmodern Paige.

I recently read an interesting article by Adam Gopnik on why he doesn’t tweet. He asserts that people largely adopt the latest newest social media/communication device or technology because they want to fit in. As he puts it: “The urge to belong to our age is more powerful than the need to use our time efficiently… They fear being traitors to their time, renegades to their generation.”

It’s not about the need. It’s about the fun and groupiness of the new way of doing it. I once had someone text me in the bus to ask me to open the window – someone sitting less than two metres away who could have made himself heard without even raising his voice.

And who hasn’t seen the two teens sitting side by side, texting each other? By no stretch of the imagination are their cell phones fulfilling a need. It’s just fun. Era-appropriate fun, although if their parents are paying their mobile bills they might disagree.

Now, I am not so utilitarian of soul as to suggest that all these forms of technology and communication be dropped. But we tend to see them as a sort of sine qua non of modern life, and as a result those who don’t adopt them are left out – not intentionally marginalised, but nonetheless finding themselves out on the fringe.

It is possible to live a full and fulfilling life in 2014 without a Twitter feed. Or a Facebook account. Or even a cell phone. You may miss out on some witty exchanges (assuming they weren’t high-profile enough to make the news) or some parties (because Facebook only lets your friends invite Facebook-people) or that thing you just remembered you should have put on the shopping list, but think of what you gain.

Is this the modern substitute for saying grace?

We complain of overload – too many contacts, too much that could be interesting, and too many people playing annoying games or posting pictures of what they had for lunch (before they ate it: mercifully there is no ‘Digesti-Cam’ app – yet).

Of course, many people judge that ‘keeping up’ is worth these hassles – and that’s their choice, a choice they should be free to make. But it isn’t a choice if you don’t feel you have any option.

So here I am, planting a flag in 2014 and claiming this little piece of the post-modern era for those taking the path less travelled by: the traitors to our time.

Full disclosure: I do have a cell phone. I use it every day, but I’m considering getting an alarm clock to do the job instead.


The Wheels Have Eyes

Today’s post was going to be an end-of-year blog round-up, but I have decided to delay until early January, which will be a year since the blog began.

Instead, to end the calendar year on a note of Really Rather Weird, I give you The Wheels Have Eyes.
No, not a Google spy-car, but the earliest piece of Steampunky writing I have yet come across, in the Bible.

Yep, Steampunk in the Bible. The Book of Ezekiel, to be precise, written in the late 500s BC. Or possibly the early 500s BC, depending on how you look at it. 593 BC et seq. anyway.

Ezekiel sees an approaching storm in which are four winged creatures with lightning darting between them. Corresponding to each creature is a wheel – or rather a wheel intersecting a wheel, with eyes around the rim. (Try describing that to a police artist.)

“When the creatures moved, they also moved; when the creatures stood still, they also stood still; and when the creatures rose from the ground, the wheels rose along with them, because the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels.” (Ezekiel 1:21)

The spirit is in the wheels? Sounds steampunky to me. Not to mention the diamond light around the throne above said creatures, on which is seated a figure like molten metal rising out of fire.

In fact, a Baptist minister once designed an aircraft inspired by this very vision – a little more Da Vinci than Verne, perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless. These Magnificent Ministers and their Flying Machines…

So there you have it. Your scriptural steampunkiness for the day, brought to you by the letter E.

Enjoy your New Year celebrations (“general rejoicings, and in the evening – fireworks!”) and look forward with me to 2014.

Sinistra Inksteyne hand250