Is The Internet Making Me More Stupider?

November 19, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Posted in writing | 48 Comments
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I’m 45 years ancient today. It’s my birthday, so please excuse the longwinded self-indulgence of an old man. It marks the anniversary of two significant events in my life. On my 17th birthday I decided I wanted to be a writer and ticked the box saying Bachelor Of Arts, philosophy and english literature instead of the box marked Engineering or Accounting. I made the decision on my birthday, having decided that decisions prevent confusion.

2 Years ago, on the 26th anniversary of that event I bought my first computer and connected it to the internet. I bought it as gift to myself since all my other presents would be socks and foodstuffs. I had been alone with my writerly thoughts for many years sharing my dirty little secret, the egotism of it all, with very few people and then only when drunk.

I have earned a living and learned to listen, since that is the skill a writer must possess. I have never been a teacher of anything. But did you know that in the original Zen monastries there was a monk employed with a bamboo cane and he was quick with it? I am not him though. I have worked in factories and offices and listened. As the old man with the hat on (Lao Tzu) once said, “A wiseman can see the whole world from his kitchen window”. The ‘kitchen’ is my own translation, of course, being me and obviously unwise enough to have earned my tummy.

The two years have been riotous fun, I must admit. I have made so many mistakes and upset so many people. Sorry. The world in the computer is the same as the world outside the computer except that if you’re reasonably honest you will always be relatively anonymous in a sea of voices which allows you to be even more honest and the more you express your emotions in a controlled way the more intensely you feel them. Even in the friendships and wordemoticonness of it all there is a certain excessiveness easily taken for passion. And without passion all of it is dry, dead, unreadable and untrue.

I received many wonderful gifts today. And here are two from Jean Cocteau…

“What the public criticizes in you, cultivate that, because it is you.”

“There are truths which one can only say having earned the right to say them.”

My name is Paul. I am not Jean Cocteau. The only thing I have found of worth on the internet is marvellously outrageous magnificences which have often provided the opportunity for expeditions into arenas of excessive exuberance.


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  1. Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, I saw a big monkey and I thought it was you, x Yes, yes, I’ve read the piece but the heat from the candles is searing my eyes (so many there are, heheh)… back later.
    Haha, don’t be long. You know I can’t be trusted on my own,

  2. No, the world inside the computer is not the same as the world outside it. In the outside world I am – and always have been – a writer alone. Within this admittedly infuriating-at-times world with its own odd rules at least I know I’m not alone in my aloneness. Your story is not so different to mine. I’m 49, began writing at 13, have been proactive online for a year and a half and there will be others like us. Their sums will be different but they’ll add up all the same. So, happy birthday you old fart – from one slightly older fart.
    Haha cool, the hole is more than the sum of its planets, Jim. Cheers, yours would be whiskey, I’m guessing?

  3. You have 50% on me…

    You did the same degree as I did.

    There is a curious freedom in writing, I wish I could do it as my sole raison d’etre.

    But here I think, writing has become truly democratic.
    Yes, I think so to, Crushed. A democracy of words.

  4. Happy Birthday, Paul. I can’t imagine you upsetting anyone, unless the prompting of independent thought has become offensive. Oh!….
    Exactly, oh well. Thanks, Brad.

  5. Happy birthday my darling Uncle. Passion is good.

    Woohoo, 7 kisses, (((((((((((you))))))))))) thankyou.

  6. Dude, Happy Birthday! and wow! yeah! and what amazing writing and great quotes.
    Dude! Thankyou,

  7. Having been around for most of that second incarnation, I can answer your first question easy enough. Yep, it sure is, haha… but not as stupid as most I promise you. Honestly though, you are one of the few on the internet who tries to maintain a certain truth with the writing you share. I say a certain truth and I mean that literally because you are also one of the few who understands what that means. Excessive, exuberant expeditions are always good as long as you accept the hangover afterwards, haha.

    I raise my glass to you, Squires. Happy Birthday, x.
    Thankyou. I am planning another expedition soon,

  8. Happy Birthday dear friend! It is simply wonderful to be able to wish you that today! I have a favorite quote by Dr. Dolittle, ” The little things in life are like links in a chain; they never seem important by themselves.” You are a very important link in the grand scheme of things; an inspiration and a good friend to many here in this computer cyberworld but that inspiration and friendship pervades beyond the internet, indeed, I carry those things of you daily in my heart and thoughts. Happy Birthday Paul.
    Thanks F.G. It’s great to see you back, my friend. As soon as the party’s over, I’m off to check out your new podcast.

  9. stupider and stupider maybe but certainly not more stupid

    today for my share day i brought my computer…and my brain…

    the world outside my kitchen window fills from the fall equinox to spring…the whole world and metamorphosis too

    thank you for your birthday reflections here and for your lovely “speech” at the little party i had for you on my blog with ee

    cheers to you on your birthday!
    Thanks, Gwendolyn. More wine? I have a lovely Aussie cab-sav,

  10. now let’s all head to the orchid room to drink up, celebrate and hear some words and music! who’s up next?
    I think Narnie has something nearly ready.

  11. I may not be able to put it in the same swiftness that you have with words, so I’ll say it quickly; Happy Birthday!!!!
    Now I had never imagined that you are a November person as well; my birthday was last to last tuesday, on the 4th. Another person whom I had gotten very close to through the internet, a friend with whom I used to have long philosophical debates, also chose the 19th to take up a form on this planet.

    Wishing you all the very best;

    Blessed Be!
    Thankyou. You should have told us it was your birthday Sumedh. We could have had a party for you too.

  12. Happy Birthday!!

  13. Happy birthday, and why did no one tell me 45 was old? The world inside the computer is like the one outside with the skin pulled back, I think.
    Haha, Z. Thankyou,

  14. “I have made so many mistakes and upset so many people” I think that is natural for writers of passion and the reason I am a serial blogger, to get out of hot spots before they boil over. You are courageous to stick it out on one continuous blog. A courageous birthday to you!
    Not so much courageous as lazy, Ms Squirrel. Thankyou.

  15. Happy Exuberant Birthday to You Paul! With a creative mind and a courageous spirit such as yours, ours is a funkier world indeed. Thank you for buying that computer. My day is amiss without some wordiful Squires wisdom. Please continue supplying us with your spicy ‘ginga.

  16. ps. “The journey of 10 000 miles [or 45 years] begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu
    Thankyou. If it’s ten thousand miles, I might catch a taxi.

  17. Happy Birthday, Squires! Here’s to another year of wonder. Your gift? a passable rendition of “Happy Birthday” on the kazoo. You can’t hear it, it’s something to be imagined. Does the Orchid Room do birthday functions? y’know with a clown, chocolate cake, custard, jelly?

    peace and joy

    Thanks, Pete. Do you take requests on the kazoo? Can you play ACDC, “Highway to Hell’? Peace and joy to you too, my friend.

  18. Happy exuberant birthday. I’d tell you I love you, but that would probably be excessive – outside the internet box, at least.

    45 is not old, by the way. Close, but not yet.
    That would be exceedingly excessive, I think, but thanks all the same.

  19. Happy birthday, Paul. Glad you bought that computer.
    Thanks, Rethabile.

  20. Happy Birthday!!! I love the passion expressed by bloggers. It adds so much to my life and my artistic experience.

  21. Well put.

    Happy Birthday. Scorpio was my second guess.
    Thankyou, Amuirin.

  22. Happy Birthday! I really appreciate your insights, simply because they are yours alone. They’re beautiful, thanks for sharing them with us!
    Thankyou, Psychobillygirl. You rock!

  23. What a beautiful day this day has become now that I know it gave us you. Happy Birthday you delightful man!
    La Lunatique! You rock too!

  24. Happy Birthday my wonderful friend..cheers!!
    Cheers!! Thankyou, Tina.

  25. well said and Happy Birthday
    Thanks Paul. Nice of you to get dressed up, haha.

  26. Woohoo! Thanks everybody. It is the excellent company that makes the whole thing worthwhile. Life is an amazing adventure. Hoist the mainsail, batten the hatches, here we go again,

  27. “Life is an amazing adventure”…well said!
    Keep climbing the stairs (years), the landscape will get better I believe…45 is a sweet number…
    Thankyou, Sherifa.

  28. yup it is ha ha ha
    yup, hahahahahah……

  29. Wishing you a wonderful birthday. I’m glad you turned to writing. Very glad.
    Thankyou, Selma.

  30. A belated happy birthday to one of the most talented writers I’ve had the privilege of stumbling across in wordpress, and hands down, to the happiest and kindest man ever. I’m glad you turned to writing too. You’ve been a big inspiration.
    Harmonie! Thankyou. How are you? Have you fully recovered yet?

  31. “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
    And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” ~ T.S. Eliot

    looking forward to where you take us next, old man!
    What a perfect quote, Gwendolyn, thankyou.

  32. Happy birthday! Whatever choices you’ve made and whatever boxes you’ve checked or left unchecked along the way, I am glad they’ve brought you here, and brought me to you. I read your posts and am provoked and empowered and inspired and then, too, I just want to have a beer with you and learn.
    Cool, thanks Bryan. We have some Stella or maybe a Toohey’s Extra Dry for you?

  33. Belated Happy Birthday! May you have many more years of Doing Exactly As You Wish. Glad to know that you acted on a significant impulse to be a Writer. :). Oh! and 45 isnt Ancient, its just the beginnings of a second teenage.
    Thankyou. ‘Doing Exactly As You Wish’ sounds so Winnie The Pooh which is perfectly lovely. I shall have a spot of hunny and contemplate my second teenagerism.

  34. Happy Birthday Paul and here’s to many more!! Thank God for birthdays, what 😀 ?

    Everything we need to know is already inside us, maybe its mostly frightening to accept that …

    I think you are marvellous!!
    Thankyou, Mental Mist.

  35. Happy Belated Birthday. (I wonder why you’ve missed a couple of day’s postings since then… Hope you’re ok!)
    Thankyou. Oh my aching head. Enjoy your youth while you can, I say.

  36. Happy birthday, just in time…

    Bring your words and the truths they speak, in the language you know best, words like razor-edged angel feathers, a pillow, a close shave, a heaven less imagined and but more felt. A mirror tells more lies than they do.

    Bring your words, with meanings or without, and we will clothe them with the resonance they strike in our deepest foundries.

    Bring your words and I’ll bring the white lightning.

    Bring your words

    And we’ll bring ours, even the ones we never knew we had.
    Your blog always makes me think. Sorry to not visit as much as I should, but to paraphrase grandmaster Lennon, life is happening between all my other plans. Think it’s time for me to take back the reigns from the headless horseman of humdrum vale.

    Peace out
    Eric! You scared the shit out of me, man. Where the hell have you been? Grab them reigns, see if you can slow her down,

  37. When the world is perfect, Paul will admire it.
    When the world is strange, Paul will examine it.
    When the world is funny, Paul will toast to it.
    When the world is sad, Paul will weep for it.
    AH but when the world it passion, Paul will sleep in and dream of it!
    Happy Happy Birthday Paul. May it be filled with Passion and grace..the two things I know are inside you at all times!


  38. ps…I did not miss your live in Australia..a day ahead of me..SO THERE~!
    Haha, thankyou, Bekki.

  39. oh happy belated birthday paul. thankfully for me, no matter what day i wrote this on, i think it would be late since we are so many time zones away. unless i started backwards and then it wouldnt be so many. but i hope your day was excessively exuberant!
    It was, thank you Mrs Ott.

  40. Happy Belated Birthday, Paul! 45, eh? And here I was thinking that at age 40, I was actually the oldest kid on this block!
    Thanks, Fitch. There’s a few of us ancients about on the interweb these days which is cool.

  41. ohhh my! YOUR BIRTHDAY???

    Happy to-You’s dear Paul! *hugs
    Woohoo, hugs, thanks Shell,

  42. Happy post-Bday my wise friend!!!

    Very well written and insightful post. You have the sensibility of a Zen archer and the precision of a surreal writer. The merging of both these assets is what brings forth your unique talent. “Keep on”…like Beckett said- “just gotta put one foot in front of the other.”
    Thanks, Randall, rage on, I say.

  43. Happy belated birthday Paul. You are NOT an old man. Remember, you are only as old as the one you are feeling. LOL….a goofey joke but kinda true too.

    Hugs, G
    Haha, thanks Geraldine. “I can feel her heartbeat, from a thousand miles,” Van Morrison.

  44. Happy 46th to you, Paul. Be having yourself a fabulous day no need for behaving yourself.

  45. I take exception with 45 years of age being denoted as ‘old’. If that statement were, in fact, true, being of the same age, I would also be old, which I am not.

    Please Mr.Squires, do get your facts straight!

    Also, Mr Squires, please do have a wonderful birthday and a fabulous 45th year!

  46. Happy birthday McPaulus and beehive yourself – boing, boing, boing – I agree with Fiona, 46 is not old (I’m not far behind that) especially if you plan to live to 120 as I do. May much champagne and chocolate cake be had (or whisky and whatever you pleaseth).

  47. Another party so quickly! If the internet has made you more stupid then this year I am really worried, haha. I have cake and whisky, anecdotes and giggles to share. Now where’s that dog?

  48. Age is just a number that society dictates! Hope you have a happy day, full of memories you can treasure always.Happy Hoppy Birthday Paul Squires! Don’t forget to eat cake!

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