A better, sharper me
Ryan Summerlin September 5, 2013
The iDevices have transformed my life.
I don’t mean so much in the normal ways. Email, Facebook, maps, camera, text, news, sports, shopping, music and the various this-and-that apps are all nice, of course. But I never miss them when I leave the iPhone or iPad at home. I don’t use apps to start the car, turn off the stove, walk the dog, bear my soul in 15-minute increments. (I torture you with this column for that.)
I’ll use the map in the glove compartment as readily as the one on my phone. I can wait till I get home to see if the Dodgers won again. The email isn’t going anywhere.
I’ve had this conversation more than once with my wife: Her: “If you had had your phone with you, you could have … and … on your way home.” Me: “I know.” That sums up my love for cell phones.
These functions, like so many “improvements” to our modern lives, run between mild convenience and pure annoyance.
It’s a couple of odd things that have made all the difference for me. I’m talking about my intellectual life, such as that is. The books I read, and access to classroom lectures through iTunes University.
I understand the nostalgia for “real” books, just as I understood a generation of writers’ connection to the manual typewriter, and people who preferred their horses and carts over those noisy horseless contraptions.
I still read book books, and I still buy them, mainly as gifts, and always at The Bookworm. But alas, I’ve succumbed to getting any title in a couple of minutes loaded and ready to read. I control the size of the type, the background, and the lighting.
What cinched it for me was a hot summer night when I had the nightstand lamp on and got sick of the bugs buzzing around it. I turned off the lamp and switched to the iPad. Not very intellectual, but I could read without the bugs — and hey, without arguing with my wife about when was I going, dear god, to turn off the light and go to sleep already?
I’m working through Harvard University’s top 200 works of fiction, an anthology of classic European literature in the 1700 and 1800s. I’m 76 percent through after a little over a year, and have reached the Russians, with “Anna Karenina.” I’m getting quite the education that I would not have thought to put myself through otherwise. In paper, these volumes would fill a bookcase, if I even could find some of these tomes. This pursuit of my virtual degree in European classical literature I’m sure is quixotic, but I’m completely into it.
I’m also into my iTunes University lectures on my runs. What a trove. There must be thousands of these. My favorites, from Yale, aren’t just filling my head with Medieval history, intro economics and psychology, but they make me run longer.
So I get along better with my wife, I’m in better shape and know more. That’s life-changing, sure enough.