Clark and Fielding: How Technology Makes Me Hate

I am currently reading The Parent App by Dr. Lynn Schofield Clark. It is a splendid book dealing with the meaning of parenting in our digital age. This is of great interest to me, because, only the other night, I looked up from my Macbook Air to find my wife on her iPad, my oldest daughter cruising her mom’s iPhone, and my youngest watching T.V. This raised a few questions for me: Is this familial connection in our digital age? Should I strive for something more? Am I alone in feeling like familial connection should be different? The following morning I read this from Clark:

The Parent App“I learned that my personal struggle as a parent in a digital age is not really about figuring out the safest or most productive way to utilize technology for education or bonding. It’s really about resisting the temptation to engage in technologically aided multitasking in order to make the most out of every moment simultaneously.”

I, too, fight this battle. I want to make the best use of my time. I have emails to craft, articles to write, work to do, most of which, I can do at home with a personal computer on my lap. I try to spend time with my children (I want to spend time with my children), but a niggling and hovering dissonance is always within reach: Can’t I play and check my email?

I am also reading Henry Fielding’s Joseph Andrews. In one scene, a gentleman, Wilson, recounts his wayward youth, his recovery from a London jail, and his first meeting with his wife. After they marry, he decides he has had enough of the city’s demands on both his person and time.  He says:

Joseph Andrews“I therefore took an opportunity to ask her opinion of entering into a retired life, which, after hearing my reasons and perceiving my affection for it, she readily embraced. We soon put our small fortune, now reduced under three thousand pounds, into money, with part of which we purchased this little place, whither we retired soon after her delivery, from a world full of bustle, noise, hatred, envy, and ingratitude, to ease, quiet, and love. We have here lived almost twenty years, with little other conversation than our own, most of the neighbourhood taking us for very strange people.”

It’s weird how often the seemingly different books I read inform one another. Clark’s remarks resonate with me. I feel like, at any given moment, I am being pulled in a hundred directions. Technology has not limited, but rather increased this feeling. I am spread thin. I am tired. And yet, I must work (write, teach, adjust budgets, pay bills, etc.), make dinner, feed the kids, and then wrestle them into sleep. Later, as I lay my head on its pillow, exhausted, I find that my mind continues to whirr. Why? Because all I see are blue screens and clicking keys.  And yet, something in Fielding’s work rings true. I find myself longing for the life of Fielding’s gentleman, Wilson. A quiet life of hard but content work freed from the thinness of our modern age. In lieu of that, a little more self discipline would be nice.