Stars in Our Pockets: Getting Lost and Sometimes Found in the Digital Age, Howard Axelrod 2020
Axelrod’s first book, ‘The Point of Vanishing’, told of his two years living alone without TV, radio, phone, or computer in the woods of Northern Vermont following an accident that resulted in the loss of vision in his left eye. This fine book describes his re-entry into a society in which the traditional means of communication and self-actualization have been largely replaced by social media with its non-stop clicks and its ‘small box’ limits on connection and communication. The book draws upon scientific and sociological studies but is primarily Axelrod’s own thinking and musings about the impact of FOMO, the 2617 touches/day by the average person, the 180 character ‘small box’ limitations of Twitter, the contagion of fake news, trolls, and bots on our civil discourse, and the ultimate damage done to our human need to think quietly in our own head about who we are and what is important and our ability to observe the world around us that often results in the awe and wonder that enrich our lives. This is an important book filled with Axelrod’s wondrous prose, e.g. “What could be a more enormous way to inhabit a life” in reference to Czeslaw Milosz’s poem ‘Gift’ describing a simple day in the life of a simple person and my favorite phrase, “feeling your common solitariness with everyone.” Reading this book is also a good way to learn some important vocabulary that equips one to discuss and understand the new world that is occupying our brains—-route knowledge vs survey knowledge, event time vs clock time, voluntary and passive attention, material, social, and spiritual selves. Put down your smart phone, fold up your Ipad, turn off your TV and read this book.