Life Off-Line: Hungary

June 22, 2008

I’ve just returned from a holiday in Eastern Europe, where access to the internet was made complicated not for reasons technological (fully post-Soviet, they’re completely wired) but familial. There was only one computer in our Budapest apartment with internet access and my father (teaching an on-line course), and sisters (recent college grads living on Facebook), demanded maximum access, competing with my recently acquired habits.
So, each day, cutting back, I engaged in a rudimentary checking of email (looking for fires), a few hands of Scrabulous (imperative), and perhaps a look at one or two blogs (my own and others). The major difference for me was one of sensation: a missing buzz and pull. The buzz of adrenaline (there is so much I must do!) and the pull of obligation (to community? readers? the steady flow of info…there is so much I must say!). Each day it became easier to live without: replaced with sour cherries, train rides to Prague, reveries of murdered relatives or other mindful activities.
I’m not actually arguing about the pull of the real here as much as I am noticing a self-fulfilling logic of the net, internal and demanding to itself, but easily forgotten or interchangeable with lived commitments. On-line, I am connected to history in the form of a faceless audience, an unmet team of compatriots; in the world (especially the place of my Father), history feels palpable but veiled, translated, and liminal. Thinking it through though, the history of my family, largely erased in the faces of Hungarians through genocide, but alive in my own Semitic features, is both less accessible and lasting than the history I enter on-line, but more enduring, even in its maddening malleability.

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