On waiting

On waiting

James Sturm, a cartoonist on a four-month sabbatical from the Internet, on waiting:

Whether it’s a sports score, a book I want to get my hands on, or tuning into Fresh Air anytime of day, I can no longer search online and find immediate satisfaction. I wait for the morning paper, a trip to the library, or, when I can’t be at my radio at 3 p.m., just do without. I thought this would drive me crazy, but it hasn’t. Anticipation itself is enjoyable and perhaps even mitigates disappointing results. I don’t seem to mind as much when the Mets don’t win (often) or Dave Davies is subbing for Terry Gross and is interviewing an obscure jazz producer.

In the two months since he’s been unplugged:

I have been experiencing more and more moments of synchronicity — coincidental events that seem to be meaningfully related. … I know this type of magical thinking is easily dismissed, but I keep having moments like this. So how do I explain it? Are meaningful connections easier to recognize when the fog of the Internet is lifted? Does it have to do with the difference between searching and waiting? Searching (which is what you do a lot of online) seems like an act of individual will. When things come to you while you’re waiting it feels more like fate. Instant gratification feels unearned. That random song, perfectly attuned to your mood, seems more profound when heard on a car radio than if you had called up the same tune via YouTube.

In a search-dominant culture, we are invisibly impatient. We have expectations that drive a sort of table of contents for stories we may have in mind; narratives in need of finding. But with an absence — in Sturm’s case, the Internet — we supplement stories for tables of contents already in place. Fill in the gaps. Find connections. And waiting can become the part worth waiting for.