This past week I was eager to narrate another book, one that was right up my alley and certain to keep me interested for the many hours it typically takes to complete a project for Audible. An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher written by Anne Zimmerman met my eagerness with delight and reminded me to pull down my own copy of The Art of Eating and re-read bits of Fisher’s beautiful prose. All of this also had the effect of pointing a very bright light toward my own lack of experience. Not for writing about food, or my life, but my habit of late of not truly experiencing both or either.
Months ago I made the note that is the title of this blog post. It happened during a conversation with my better half where we both had our noses pressed to pocket computers ‘yelping’ a location for dinner. He told me I should write a book with that title. I’ll start with a blog.
The truth of the matter, and what Zimmerman’s writing about Fisher reminded me of, is that life is not meant to be lived on-line or through a phone’s search engine. As I narrated my way through her writing and through Fisher’s world I found myself getting irritated because of Fisher’s seemingly “easy” life. She was born into a somewhat privileged family and was able to travel between Europe and the U.S. on her parent's dime, spending endless hours reading, writing, gardening and of course, eating. After concluding the book yesterday I realized what I was feeling was not irritation or even envy, it was sadness that I do not share the world of M.F.K. Fisher. The world of inhabiting each moment, not commenting or posting about each moment.
It’s worth a quick pause here to mention Fisher lived from 1908-1992, so while she missed out on Google, Instagram and Snapchat, she wasn’t immune to world wars, the great depression and other tragedies of the day.
There’s been much written about our dearth of wisdom in exchange for endless knowledge. A favorite quote from Shawn Phillips: "In this information age, knowledge is as plentiful as fast food, wisdom as precious as a home cooked meal. Knowledge is mindlessly poured into troughs; wisdom preciously served one ladle at a time with delight." (cue: mic drop)
Our current obsession with capturing a moment to then post somewhere online for others to see and comment baffles me. I was dragged (my social media numbers are the stuff of social media experts nightmares) kicking and screaming into the world of social media. Told about, and experienced firsthand, the loss of work to others with followers numbering in the five and six figure range; not because my resume and/or experience was lacking or my talent non-existent, but because not enough people followed me compared to the other actors in the room. It’s gone as far as hearing I “won the room and was a perfect fit for the job” but those 206k eyeballs the other girl brings with her matter more. That’s a tough bit of knowledge to swallow.
And while it doesn’t look like a major sea change is coming soon, I will take some time to sit with what I’m feeling after spending the last few days with M.F.K. Fisher and her experiences of living. That, after all, is what we are missing isn’t it? The living. If we constantly whip out our smartphones to snap a picture to post on Instagram then we are constantly whipping ourselves out of feeling the moment in exchange for posting the moment. If every eating out experience can only happen after a thorough search of all Yelp reviews we’re going to miss having our own personal experience in exchange for the experience of someone else. If we continue to opt out of being fully present for each gift of a moment we are offered what’s the point? Endless downloadable files of pictures and comments and reviews and likes or dislikes, shares or no shares, but nothing felt at the core or even just the surface of our precious and unique life?
A final quote from Fisher:
“When shall we live if not now?” ~ M.F.K. Fisher
As much a question as a statement and one I certainly plan to keep in the forefront of my mind. Maybe even make it my screensaver on my smarty-pants-phone to give me pause each time I think I’m living by posting something rather than living by experiencing something.