Ephemera and Attachment

I have been doing some work to tidy my digital world. In addition, I have been contemplating my use of tools for reading, writing, and reflecting. I am very much a child of the third industrial revolution as conceived by Schwab (2017). I look to these digital tools to accomplish some work for me. I have built a career looking for ways to shape the use of these digital tools. As that career winds down, I find myself reconsidering these tools in my daily life.

One of the core ideas that I have come to face is that the ephemera of my life is not of real value to me. I have spent time, energy, and money in pursuit of the maintenance of so much of my ephemeral work. I have a large box of CD-ROMs and DVDs with digital records going back more than twenty years. It is mine and I don’t have time or interest in recovering it.

Today I spent some time reviewing an old blog I maintained between 2003 and 2006. It was an interesting walk down memory lane. I rescued a few pieces that I thought of interest, but most of it was of little interest today. I was much younger, much more earnest, and much more fired up about the perceived perfidy of the plutocrats. None of this is good or bad, but it is of limited value to have that available.

In fact, I find that I am indulging in attachment in trying to keep it. It is not that history has no value, but history takes time, energy, and money to record, re-read, and remember. For my own life, it is better to move forward than to dwell overmuch on my own path. Allow what is valuable and worthy of saving to surface in the normal course of events.

In my own forward movement, I look for opportunities to study history that others have recorded and pull it together into a fabric of understanding that I can share with others. This ephemera is a distraction from the work that is needed.

As a further manifestation of this attachment problem, I have spent many years thinking about how to read books and record my thoughts. At times I have been puzzling about how to search and find my writings or references. In this light I have often focused my efforts on digital tools. Putting aside the disappointing reality of the search tools, it is more often the case that I never search in the first instance. The other problem I have proposed to solve is to create some sense of continuity and permanence in my records. This, however, is delusion of attachment. My digital records are not any less subject to the impermanence of this existence than the much older technologies of paper and ink. And yet these digital tools can be so much more distracting. They distract me with the need to bring them under some level of mastery, and they contain many avenues to take up the time in my day, week, month, or year.

So, I turn increasingly to my older technologies to bring focus to my reading and thinking. Coming up soon, an initial review of my reading of Payne and Palacios’ work on Spanish dictator Francisco Franco.


Payne, Stanley G. and Jesús Palacios. 2014. Franco: A personal and political biography. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.

Schwab, Klaus. 2017. The Fourth Industrial Revolution. New York: Crown Business.

One Reply to “Ephemera and Attachment”

  1. Pat Gibson

    The impermanence of the digital is not well known. If you don’t do something to those DVDs or floppy discs, they become unreadable. The same can be said of tape reels from old main frame computers according to JWG, and he should know. One also faces the issue of having a device that reads them, but books created during a particular time in history also have an issue, sulfur in the paper. Old paperback books turn yellow, then brown, then crumble into dust. The Library of Congress has a triage group working on deciding what will be microfilmed and what gets allowed to become dust.


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