published in Volume 2, Issue 3 on May 21, 1995CyberRealWorld
As I sit down to write this, it's almost two in the morning on Sunday, May 21st. I'm starting from scratch on this column, something I had planned to not be doing. Three days ago, Thursday the 18th, I had taken myself out to Chalco Hills State Recreation Area and had planted myself firmly on the bank of the lake there and wrote most of my column. I used big, flowery words and images to try and relate what I was experiencing, sitting there as the sun set over the horizon. I wrote about the beautiful orange and purple hues of the sky, the low croaking chorus of the bullfrogs coming out for the night and the sweet scent of freshly mown grass that hung in the cool night air.
My intention was to focus on the Real World, the real physical world that we all live in. I wanted to write about how, over the past year or so, I've entrenched myself deeply in that other world we constantly hear about, CyberSpace, and lost a firm grasp on the Real World.
I"ve been a part of the CyberSpace community now for well over 12 years, going all the way back to my Commodore Vic-20 and 300 BPS modem, connecting to CompuServe, then to local area bulletin boards, then to Q-Link and finally (after America Online) hitting the "Big Time" with the Internet.
Before the Internet came into my life, most of the friends that I met via the various on-line services and bulletin boards I frequented were real and tangible -- I would meet them in real life and we'd have parties and do stupid stuff and laugh together. With the advent of the Internet, however, it has become much more difficult for me to meet in the Real World the people I've run across in CyberSpace. So, in order to foster the human need to know people, to actually get to know them and find out who they are, I've migrated more and more to electronic communications for my day-to-day interactions with people.
Before you begin to think that I've plugged myself into the Internet, let me say that I haven't abandoned those friends and people I've met in the Real World. I've simply added an entire virtual community of people to my current circle of friends. It's getting to be quite a crowded circle.
But, I've digressed a bit. When I drove myself the three miles down Highway 50 to Chalco Hills, I noticed, for the first time in months, the world around me. It was a rather surreal feeling, actually. I had the window rolled down and a mixed tape of driving music playing in the background, very similar to the same routine I've followed for the past year driving back and forth to school and work every day.
Right before I got to Chalco, however, the sudden beauty of the countryside exploded and overwhelmed me. It was very pleasant, but as I said before, surreal. What was different about the countryside at that particular moment that I hadn't noticed the countless other times I've driven in that area over the past year or so? Even now I can't pinpoint what it was.
I ended up driving around Chalco Hills for about fifteen minutes as the sun completed its descent below the horizon, then perched myself on a grass-covered bank of the lake and watched the world unfold around me. The frogs, the fishermen, the lovers in parked cars -- it was if someone had turned on the Real World again and it was flowing rapidly into all of my senses.
It's odd. I just finished up my full-time schooling for a Masters degree in computer science. I still have a few classes to finish up, but my tenure as a Graduate Fellow has expired. I've also been offered (and accepted) a job with Tandem Telecom here in Omaha, Nebraska. My wife recently quit her job as a research assistant to focus on her two Masters degrees (English and anthropology). One of my best friends has recently fallen in love with a wonderful woman and has also received a large promotion at his job. After years of floundering in jobs she hated, my mother has found a job that she really enjoys and feels good about.
All of these things have happened within the past two weeks, and I think they've jarred me out of my graduate school/work/CyberSpace monotony. It's a good feeling, to notice the trees which are "leafing out" (thanks to a former co-worker and friend of mine for that term) and feel alive and invigorated again.
Without trying to write a column with a moral, it appears that one appears here anyway. Ill leave it as an exercise for the reader to decipher it. As my friend (the one who recently fell in love) says at the end of his columns for the Kryptonian Cybernet, another electronic zine ....