Let’s start with the idea of an environment and a technology.
Something unimaginably old that people use every day, but aren’t too concerned about it when they do.
What else is tied to our perception of reality?
Politics, perhaps – but could our fascination with bureaucratization be enough to facilitate a lapse in our technology? Or at least enough to sustain our plot?
Perhaps a decline is not what we’re looking for. Instead: stagnation.
What would make our culture reach a point where it would say: “Enough. This is good enough.”
(I’m sometimes afraid we’ve already reached this point.)
It would have to be a world where making technology no longer was a priority because it no longer made money. In order for it to no longer be fiscally feasible, it would have to be ubiquitous – or nearly so.
So it would have to be homemade, as well as an incentive for people to make it themselves, rather than just having someone else make it for them.
And maybe we personalize it.
SO. What are we thinking here? We’re thinking of an extremely easy level of technology, right up there with, say, cooking.
This suggests something that is organic – because too many people are unskilled to create something mechanical.
Organic is easy.
Okay. So where does that leave us? Recap: An organic technology that has been spread throughout all cultures, has superseded all other forms of technology that garner the most money, and has brought an unprecedented equality (or perceived equality) across the boundaries of human experience, reducing social stratification and nationalistic feeling.
Holy crap. Let’s do this thing!
This organic technology would have to be something that allowed people to connect to other people. It would also have to be capable of communicating pain and pleasure equally – because pain is the incentive for people to like things, right?
Or is that the absence of pain?
Depends on the person I suppose.
Now what else?
Does it have to be one thing, or can it be a number of things? And what about conflict? Are we looking at the need to encounter another species?
Hold the phone. ARE WE TALKING GALACTIC WAR? Because that idea is old, and already perfected in Ender’s Game.
So how to make it new again?
Could this technology take people somewhere else? Because if the only place they can go is into their own minds, that was done in The Matrix. If it takes us into another plane, which abandons earth, that might make it less relevant again – for both our readers and our characters.
And then people would be clamouring for galactic war.
And this is not Starship Troopers. (And Starship Troopers is already the best there is.)
This has to be a story about us, not somewhere else.
Tonight, I am electric to the touch. A wriggling, giggling eel. A lamplighter in the dark.
A wicked wick.
Today, I wrote. My lower back, a crooked crick. My bum, an indent. Bad posture, and too much tea.
Today, I ran with legs a fire.
Tonight, I walked. My cheeks, poppy flesh.
My lips, stung from a kiss.
That no matter how hard I try, I cannot forget.
Sometimes when I walk, I dance, and sometimes when I dance, I dance to this:
When I was eighteen, I walked to a photography studio on Quinpool Avenue to have my headshots taken.
When I was eighteen, I quit my job at Safeway and got a job as a server.
When I was eighteen, I read Crime and Punishment and learned to spell patronymic.
When I was eighteen, I dyed my hair red from box.
When I was eighteen, I didn’t like beer.
When I was eighteen, I wrote a part of a story to my boyfriend Marc:
Now, abandoned by his companion and in a nightclub which owed a lot to the whole early 90’s Goth/Vamp movement, Kevin wandered silently. His mind wrote great fantasies of blood, violence, and justice and he strode, unheeding, between the stares and the gropes of the dissolute dancers. He flexed the powerful muscles of his back, his unfolding wings eclipsing the strobes and casting great shadows over the denizens of this room.
His body shuddered as he inhaled the acrid sweat of the hallucinogenic, hormoned populous, hopped up on substances comprised of equal parts narcotics, equal parts expectation. Kevin’s mind began to elongate and expand – he felt a growth from within; his vanity extinguished, his interest peaked. Could these chosen adolescents, fueled by social malaise and suburban boredom be the reason he was brought back to life? What did he have to offer, to enhance their drab days of big bucks and fast cars?
Although quite weak, Kevin noted in some form or other, a disgust and distrust of the environment he freely strode through. Banking on his good looks, flashy clothes and nine foot angel wings to distance himself on any would-be bloodsucker, he monitored the group.
I realized I had a problem when I began reading Battlestar Gallactica fan-fiction on the internet.
I suppose this wouldn’t have been so bad if I had either been a) a fan of the show or b) someone who regularly enjoyed world-wide ready smut, but as I was neither, warning bells were quick to sound.
(The worse of it? I actually had to SIGN UP to gain access to the website.)
I always had a thing for Adama and Roslin. I understand that this makes me very weird. But I am okay with that.
It was a Tuesday at two in the morning, and I was mashed into a kitchen chair with my knees pressed up against my chest and my slippers half slid off my feet, feeling kind of turned on, but mostly horrified. Dressed in my husband’s boxers and an old tank top, I felt chills run the length of my spine – the kind that makes you feel completely clammy, as though your entire body is blushing.
I stumbled to my feet.
The need to get away from the computer, and its mocking stare was overpowering; I felt nauseous. As I stepped backwards I tripped over my cat’s overturned scratching post. Cracking my knee against the desk, I toppled to the ground.
As my face made contact with the carpet, the face of the evil force that had lead to this late-night, lackluster climax (metaphorically, not literally) rushed up to greet me.
This was procrastination beyond anything I had ever known.
It must be noted that I had every intention of writing this post at the last minute –as any piece on procrastination is wont to be, I’m sure – and let the record stand that I did.
I also decided to do a little bit of research.
For instance, did you know that the origin of the word is derived from the Latin pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow”? And that it can be defined as “to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse-off for the delay”?
Synonyms include: frivoling, idling, dilly-dallying, loafing, puttering and trifling.
Examples of procrastination often cited include: frenetically cleaning, exercising, cooking, baking, watching television, completing crosswords, obsessively checking e-mail and trolling online gossip and sporting websites.
(A friend who wishes to remain anonymous confessed to once visiting soapopera.net to read the episode recaps of shows she didn’t even watch.)
However this is not to say that there aren’t numerous inventive, creative and incredibly interesting ways to pass the time when you are not doing the thing (whatever it is) you are supposed to be doing.
I once met a guy, a then UBC MFA student who recounted how he makes lists whenever he procrastinates. I thought this to be rather mundane (everybody makes to-do lists!) and asked him to elaborate.
“No,” he told me. “You don’t quite understand. I don’t just make lists. I make lists and then I memorize them. For example, the 1987-88 NHL scoring race went as such: Lemieux 168, Gretzky 149, Savard 131, Hawerchuk 121, Robitaille 111…”
I sat there stunned as he rattled off the top ten point leaders as well as their totals.
“There are only so many times you can look at something until it sticks with you,” he told me. “For a while it was NHL stats. I pick and choose what I want to learn about I suppose.”
Another friend told me how when he procrastinates he obsesses over bicycling infrastructure.
“Does that have something to do with the actual construction of the bike?” I asked.
“No,” he said. “It means that I lust after places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam,” he explained.
I didn’t tell him that I thought that was pretty darn weird. I mean, who was I to judge?
So why do we procrastinate? There are four main theories on this topic. The first concerns a fear of anxiety, fear of failure or pursuit of perfectionism. The conceit being, the more an individual fears the task at hand the more anxious they become about starting. Therefore, they are more likely to put it off, hence a need to procrastinate.
The second theory is that of self-handicapping. This is when people place obstacles that hinder their own good performance. The motivation for self-handicapping is often to protect self-esteem by giving people an external reason, an “out,” if they fail to do well.
The third theory concerns rebelliousness. Certain personality traits, such as hostility and stubbornness supposedly leave individuals predisposed against schedules and authority and are therefore more likely to procrastinate.
The fourth is a theory that purports that we are constantly beset with making decisions among various courses of action, and as such, make decisions based on what we would rather do more. For instance, should we do homework or spend time with friends? Do we watch TV or go for a run? Study for a midterm or clean the bathroom? It suggests that individuals are more likely to take on the task that is both more enjoyable and easier to attain and put off those more difficult with varying degrees of personal satisfaction.
There are of course less academically substantiated hypotheses. These concern the beliefs that underneath it all there is a fundamental, human belief in the profundity of procrastination. Perhaps it is both part of a conscious denial of, or rebellion against the linear nature of time and the structured nature of the world that revolves around the completion of assignments, the writing of exams, and the never ending list of projects.
Procrastination is a conscious practice; it is an attempt to move beyond the moving forward; it is an exercise in existing only in a moment and trying to make that moment last forever.
Some academics believe that procrastination is a thoroughly modern invention, due to a move from an agrarian society to urban. Back in the 14th century, 98% of the population of the Western world lived on manor estates (take these statistics with a grain of salt) and spent their days working on the land of whatever lord, or earl held power. From sun up to sun down their day was mapped out – there was no time, let alone substantial resources for procrastination. It wasn’t until the advent of numerous deadlines, schedules and commitments, or ever, the advent of personal choice, that procrastination came into play.
There are a number of tests and scales that allow you to measure your own level of procrastination (just google “procrastination test.”) On the one I took I came out as a “moderate procrastinator” who “puts things off sometimes even though [I] know I shouldn’t.”
Oh yeah? What profound insight! Yeesh. (Thank goodness I didn’t have to pay money to take the test.)
Also, I couldn’t help but think as I answer all ninety-one questions was how great an exercise in procrastination it was in and out of itself. Which in turn took me back to hockey stats and bicycle paths, because it is interests like those and quizzes like the one I took that make me wonder whether or not procrastination is a bad as we have come to think.
Perhaps it less destructive and more instructive than we give it credit.
The popular adage goes: “procrastination is like masturbation – either way you’re just screwing yourself.”
I’ve come to consider that this may be the insignia of some puritanical, incredibly efficient sect, because if everyone felt as good after a day of procrastination as they did after a hour (or whatever) of self-loving, school libraries would reek less of desperation and more of quiet satisfaction.
I mean, depending on the day, the individual involved and the specific job at hand, people find themselves immersed in something they’d never before considered important and perhaps still don’t find important – yet are still learning and still growing nevertheless (Battlestar Galactica fan fiction not included.)
But the fact remains the same, we are still doing something. We are still learning something, or practicing something, or scrubbing something; at the end of the day, we will still have something to show for our efforts despite our lack of progress on our intended project.
Case in point: procrastination can lead to a tidier, germ-free apartment; knowledge about Danish cycling routes; and a windfall realization as to why identical evil twins are so damn popular on day-time TV.