Do people still suffer from periods of boredom even with computers, smart phones and tablets to occupy them endlessly? There’s also television, of course, which in homes of many Americans is on twenty-four hours a day, making it harder and harder to find a quiet place to sit and think. Even neighborhood bars, the old refuge of introspective loners, now have huge TV screens alternating between sports and chatter to divert them from their thoughts. As soon as college students are out of class, cell phones, and iPods materialize in their hands, requiring full concentration and making them instantly oblivious of their surroundings. I imagine Romeo and Juliet would send text messages to each other today as they strolled around Verona, though I find it hard to picture Hamlet advising Ophelia to betake herself to a nunnery. These and other thoughts came to me as I sat in a dark house for three days in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Being without lights and water is a fairly common experience for those of us who live in rural areas on roads lined with old trees. Every major rainstorm or snowstorm is almost certain to bring down the lines, which, because of the relative scarcity of population, are a low priority for the power company to fix. We use oil lamps and most often candles, so our evenings around the dining room table resemble séances. We sit with our heads bowed as if trying to summon spirits, while in truth struggling to see what’s on our dinner plates.
more from Charles Simic at the NYRB here.