The Asynchronous Life

Photo via Unsplash/TomHermans

For almost seven days, I have not had an internet connection. My phone has been silent and there has been no television anywhere. I don’t know what our president is saying, and the only newspapers I find are a day old. I am not interested. I am disconnected. 

For the first time in many years, my mind is breathing on its own. It is thinking on its own. The words are forming. Thoughts are taking shape. Once again, my mind is shifting from what to why? It is making thinking about things more interesting. Why did the Ladakhis come up with butter tea? Or why do rocks and mountain faces in the same geographical area look so different? Or why does the skin tone look so weird at times on the new iPhone XS camera? Or why do we always think of dystopian future?

I am not plugged into the hive, not influenced by the collective thinking. I am not reacting to what is happening elsewhere. There is no fear of missing out. There is just life, not networked. The networked life, we so bitterly complain about is because it slowly robs us of individuality.

Individuality means independent thinking. The networked hive mind is a popularity contest. Like, retweet, share — these are apostles of popularity and all things popular eventually devolve, or are forgotten. The hive mind, which people have described as a beautiful collective is now just a mob. Sometimes the mob is Arab spring, but mostly it is a reinforcement of your own biases and negativity in the cloak of anonymity.

I don’t think we can be disconnected — we need the network to do basic things of life. And yet the hive is tap and an app away.

But there is an option. We can be asynchronous or connect when you need. Want to listen to Spotify, connect. Want to call Uber, simply connect. Want to pay bills, just connect. Need to Amazon, connect. Want to socialize – go have coffee or call a friend for a coffee. Want to inform yourself, skip Social Media. Instead, just read a book or two.

I downloaded about ten books to my Kindle when I left for India and I have finished them all — 10 in 14 days. Thanks to books by Bob Woodward (Fear) and Michael Lewis (The Fifth Risk), I quite understand the magnitude of challenges posed by the current American administration. I don’t need a daily reminder or retweets to make me aware of the precarious times. Saudi America by Bethany McLean is a smart way to learn about the oil geopolitics, which ironically ties into the other two books I mentioned.

Of course, one could talk to a real human and learn from them. The other day, I was visiting a friend in Delhi and his mom made an observation: the world hasn’t been the same since 1972. They lived in Kenya at that time and the formation of OPEC and the rise of petrodollars has had a long impact on the world at large. She just drew a single line to the mess that is today. And just like that Bethany’s book made even more sense.

I have not felt this nourished in a long time. I have started to create every day. Suddenly the words are flowing. I don’t need to influence, I just need to be. Asynchronous!

October 13, 2018, Leh, India

A letter from Om

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