The Editor's Desk

The Editor's Desk - 2022

Paper Future Digital Past

By Samir Shukla

My brain is becoming a square sheet of paper trying to fit into the round holes of digital whirlwinds. It’s a slow-motion stroll battling the roller coasters of our mind-numbing digital world, continually held like some glowing priceless metal in the palms of our hands. This madness afflicts all. It spares no one.

I have recently increased my efforts to imprint memories directly on my brain, rather than turning them into binary abstractions on a hand-held device. The endless collection of data, photos, videos, apps, is a runaway train looking to slow down.

I still capture photos and videos on my phone, of course, but am spending more time just gazing at vistas, a flower, the light streaming through a window creating otherworldly shadows, myriad things of beauty and interest, whether stationary or in motion. I gaze and close my eyes for a moment to record it, to remember and recall later. Saved on the most powerful cloud and hard drive of all. This is rather important with the creeping fogginess in my brain, the old battle-scarred supercomputer. It’s maintenance.

This slow gaze at something worth recording is a meditative exercise that also helps balance the slowly increasing wobbliness of my footing when walking down the road, trying to get to the sunny side of the street, attempting to catch up with my future self.

It may be a losing battle, but I know my future self is looking back signaling to me to keep bouncing forward. This meditative exercise also includes rubbing my hands together to loosen that rectangular shape embedded in the stiff palm by that ever-present device.

I’m still interested in gadgets but am no longer awed. The gadgets and gizmos, warp drives and hyper drives of science fiction films and stories lit up my youth. Somewhere along the alleyways of the Internet, social media and way too much streaming, I try to detox from this tech deluge every so often and attempt to slow the roller coaster down.

I’m now gazing at a sprawling tree, close my eyes and save, then look up at an intriguing cloud formation, close eyes and save, and look down again at a tree branch and watch a bird just being a bird. Eyes shut and save. My brain responds with a thanks. Technical advances will continue to march forward at hyper speed, now I’m willing to let most pass me by.

It’s funny how certain old and established mediums remain vital. Among all the dizzying array of apps and technical doodads available, old-school email remains the most used and productive tool of communication.

A handwritten letter can seem an oddity that is also more real than a thousand texts or WhatsApp missives. A paper map can save a lot of headaches when you are on the road, out of reach of cellular signals. Records, yes, those round vinyl things that were relegated to the dustbins of history are more popular now than CDs.

We store so much data in the cloud, but its advisable to remain vigil and keep a few essential documents on paper. They may save the day someday, if embroiled in legal or tax matters. Maybe even matters of the heart.

Sometimes the endless shards of communication are surmised simply and more effectively on a single sheet of paper.

The roller coaster I’m on in this moment is slowing. I’m groggy as I get off. There’s a group of kids playing with abandon in the neighbor’s yard. I record this moment in my brain. The handheld device tucked away in a pocket. This precious, just passed moment, when recalled later, will make that future moment more real.

Samir Shukla is the Editor of Saathee Magazine.
Twitter: @ShuklaWrites