The Sandoval Signpost (Web edition) is pleased
as punch (diet punch that is) to bring you the humor
and insightful human observations of Daniel Will Harris,
author of My
Wife and Times. —Ed].
Turn off your computer
Perception and unreality
By Daniel Will Harris
Turn off your computer. Yes, you, wondering
if you can just skip to the next message and not feel obliged
to turn off this machine. Yes, now. Don't even finish reading
this. As my wife likes to say, "It will be there later."
And, she's right (as always—something that's as comforting
as it is annoying).
If anyone asks, tell them it crashed (they'll believe that!).
You've been looking up close at your screen for too long.
Turn it off and focus on infinity.
If you're still reading this, you haven't turned it off yet.
Did you think I wouldn't notice? Go on. I'll wait... Right
now. Go outside. Then come back and read the rest of this...
. You better not be reading this unless you've already turned
your computer off and now are coming back to finish. I'll
be able to tell...
Maybe it's just me, but I think it's easy to get confused
between what I see on my computer and reality. Until I actually
saw the Eiffel Tower in person, it seemed like it was only
12" tall. That's how big it is in the little models on
my desk, and it's even smaller in pictures. I knew it was
bigger than that—but that's how it felt.
Computers are wonderful things, but I sat in front of one
for so long I'd gotten to the point where they started to
affect the way I saw the world. It was as if I had tunnel
vision—looking straight ahead, as if the world was my
monitor (instead of my oyster). It felt small, flat, and two-dimensional.
And the scary part was that I'd gotten used to seeing things
Then I went to Yosemite National Park in California. Things
there are big. And wide. So wide I found myself constantly
turning my head until I realized I could stand still and see
almost 180 degrees—I remembered I have wide-screen vision,
not just 19" vision. I could see—well, as far as
the eye could see.
Yosemite reminded me that while computers are great, seeing
something 12" high and listening to stereo speakers just
isn't the same as standing in front of the 2,400 foot tall
Yosemite Falls, hearing the thunder of the Falls go right
When I got back home, I tried to remember how it felt to
see things—not just in front of me, but from side to
side. I exercised my peripheral vision (it's easier to do
in the car because of the movement). Doing this gave me a
very different perspective. I wasn't driving though the world,
I was driving in it.
The web doesn't just shrink vision, but also time. Everything's
faster, and that can mean more pressure.
Last week, I turned off the computer again (yes, I can now
go an entire day without using the computer—I'm so proud,)
and took a ride on the Hawaiian Chieftain, an 18th century-style
tall sailing ship on San Francisco Bay.
Not only was it a great way to see the bay from an entirely
new perspective (like seeing the underside of the Golden Gate
Bridge and finally realizing how huge that bridge really is—trust
me, it's a lot bigger than 12" long), it reminded me
of a different sense of time. Not the milliseconds of internet
time, but the time of the tides, the pulse of the planet.
To help me remember this, I don't turn on my computer first
thing in the morning. I go outside. I look around. I do Tai
I remember where I am and what's outside the phone lines.
So here's to making your memory snapshots wide-screen.