Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I hate the web

Just waiting for the roofer to show up, on hold with all of my work projects, so I start to surf. Knowing that it's a bad idea, I decide to check out the blog of the daughter of a close friend, and lo and behold, she's using it as a diary and conversation with her friends, she does not want her mother's friend looking at it, and yet now I know it is there. Now it is a scab that I can scratch. Now I know something about her that I don't want her to know that I know. I have removed the bookmark, but I still know that it is there.

The internet gives you the ability, if not outright permission, to snoop. It lets you know what an ignoble person you are, because the ability to do this is irresistible. I never had trouble not snooping in my children's rooms or among their belongings. I've cleaned their rooms without ever feeling a need to find things or pass judgment on items that pass through my hands. I have never read their diaries.

Yet the internet offers a way to look without looking. Pop over to Facebook and see who's talking to them. Drop in at MySpace and check out the page hits. Since I feel sneaky and uncomfortable when I do this, clearly I'm in a morally unpleasant area, and should stop. And yet, who will know?

Telling stories

Every family has its myths and stories, they constitute the family's collective memory. It's important to families to have stories that connect you to the ancestors and to each other. Immigrant families treat story-telling in different ways-- either mythical "old country" parables that create a perfect world of tradition and beauty that has been lost, or else a void.

These last believe mostly in the new. "We left the old country and its myths behind". My mother, my grandmother, and my mother-in-law subscribed to the leave-it-be school of immigrant story-telling. We have no old-country stories from these women. All of the stories of the Samioses (Samii?) and the Chins are new land tales, about what happened here in the country that they chose, rather than there in the country that they left. The only thing that really came with them was the food, so Bill and I know nothing about our immigrant heritage except how to eat.

When you don't tell stories, it's hard to get the details to agree. Everyone involved in the original incident must agree-- I said this and you said that, then these things happened in this sequence. The collective must create the stories. The grise tells the mother tells the child, who carries that story at many removes into the future: "This is who we are, because this is who we were."