Friday, October 5, 2012

People From Porlock

When Samuel Taylor Coleridge was living near Porlock, a British  coastal town, he wrote the glorious poem, Kubla Khan:

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree: / Where Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man......

This famously unfinished poem is purported to have been conceived in an opium-induced dream. 

The dream was interrupted by an unexpected visitor - possibly a politician looking for Coleridge's support.

Puff! The dream was gone and the poem is unfinished.

Since the literati agree this is a tragedy of some size, it demonstrates on what slender threads hang the important things in life. 

People from Porlock turn up every day in every way....and we can't guard against them and remain in society.

They take our attention, bleed us of our creativity and our time and generally upset the equilibrium of our lives.

But now they can be managed. If you live your life entirely on the Internet and Face Book, nothing can disturb your dreams unless you let it.  Or you don't have to dream. You can spend hours reading, researching and learning. You can interact with people all day and all night. Or, you can sleep all day or all night.

Some of us have found the Internet to be the "pied a terre" we have dreamed of. Free rent and it makes no demands of our time that we don't allow. Also, it is filled with an infinite variety of people and information. Friends come and stay, or they our whim or theirs. No fuss, no muss. 

And you can share a meal without having to cook or wash dishes. 

You can find someone to talk to a 3 a.m., or you can disappear for days on end and not inconvenience anyone....if you leave a note. 

I suspect the danger in all this enhancing of - or submitting to - such a purely cerebral life is that we may lose our ability to move.

That being the case, our needs would be spare....and so would the regulations that rule our lives. Maybe we could even avoid all the political haggling since people wouldn't need to care about much of anything that wasn't right in front of them. Everything in life could be virtual.

I suppose that it is worth considering that Coleridge had a better way to deal with life as an opium eater. He just immobilized his brain and tuned out of the world instead of on or in to it.

But then he had to get up and answer the door.


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