When I heard about the Game of Thrones' author's work environment of choice, I got a little worried. I think we can all agree that Martin is a little bit of a creeper- with the ubiquitous black fisherman's cap atop a pale face and his icicle beard, the man looks like the ghost of a sea captain drowned in a squall long ago. And what might he wear under those long shirts and coats? An albatross, I wonder. Then we stir in the fact his series is, well, Game of Thrones and all that it entails, and one wonders what exactly goes on in that wizardish head of his.
Now I learn that he works in DOS. No internet, no spellcheck. Heck, maybe no mouse support. Slow, cumbersome, incompatible, and inherently anti-social. Only serial killers and government agencies would bother to work this way. Why on earth would he do it? Conan asks him the same:
And it's actually very admirable. Martin's DOS machine functions as a typewriter with a hard drive, providing a distraction-free environment in a world where this little rest from the unending deluge of social noise. (As Malcolm Guite, the guitar-slinging Cambridge chaplain says, "We live in a world of time-saving devices, but we have so little time.") I can't begin to count the writing hours lost to the insistent distractions of the digital age- I've even turned off the various notifications sent to my phone by social media apps and installed StayFocusd on Chrome to combat the goblins of my workday, yet the little beasts still manage to gnaw away at my time. I could use a DOS machine myself- Installed in a concrete bunker with no WiFi or 3G, of course.
I'm reminded the Desert Fathers, the early Christians who fled the era's divisive controversies in the empire's urban centers for the tranquility of the "wilderness", where, like Christ, they could dwell in prayerful solitude. Wouldn't that be sweet? Church retreats are intended to function the same, yet between the crowds and structured schedules, they are hardly a stand in for distraction-free contemplation. Instead, the modern Christian must find peace and willful dwelling-in-God not just in the space and time in between the harried parts of our lives, but in the midst of them. It's when the reports pile up, deadlines loom, the yard overgrows to the point of swallowing neighborhood pets, or your friends pester you to watch these totally awesome videos of cats that Christ is most demanding of us. It's when we wish we could take a load off that Christ asks us to take a load on. And that's not an burden- it's a blessing.
There's a lot of noise out there, but it's not an impossible foe. Practical solutions, like Martin's internet-free DOS computer, can help turn down the volume. I don't receive Facebook notifications on my phone, and it's on vibrate most of the day. Most important is commending our day and all that we do in the day to God. It doesn't take a psychologist to know that the human mind will drift toward whatever it sets its sight on. Set your sights high, then, in all that you do. As Paul urges,
We just might get some work done.