Thursday, February 19, 2009

Organizing The World

Somebody once said “technology is mans way of organizing the world so that he never actually has to experience it.”

It is becoming increasingly possible to live in that world. We have the technology now to insulate ourselves from anything actually experiential. We only need immerse ourselves in life if we choose to do so. Most of us can just dip a foot in the water periodically to enable the sensation of being among the living. There should be no blame assigned to living such a cocoon existence. Life has become overwhelming for many, with overcrowded cities and towns, the accompanying congestion of the roads, public gathering places, even the parks and hiking trails. When getting around, and getting in and out of places of business becomes a chore, rather than a matter-of-fact accommodation of our needs, when it becomes a burden, rather than a pleasure, it is no wonder that we tend to organize our lives to avoid such involvements, or confrontations as it were, as much as possible. We have the wherewithal to do so, and we avail ourselves of the convenience at every opportunity. We can choose when, and where, to actually interact with other human beings.

We do our banking online to avoid the banks. We pay our bills online to avoid the Post Office. We subscribe to Netflix, or premium movie channels, for the convenience of avoiding crowds, and the expense, of the Theater. We email, text, or Tweet people rather than calling, or visiting them. We don’t ever have to stop and ask directions of another person if we’re going somewhere because we have our Map Quest print-outs, or our global positioning navigation in the car. We drive-thru for our food, and sit in our cars to eat. Whole families even, when the kids would much rather be eating in the park. There’s a DVD screen in the back seat to keep the kids engaged during lunch, insulating the parent from the kids.

I’ve noticed that we not only avoid the association of other humans much more than we used to, but we also avoid connection to the natural elements whenever possible. I was observing today, and have been for quite some time, that people don’t even drive with their windows down any more, or their sunroofs open like they used to, even in moderate weather. It was a beautiful day today, and I had the windows down in my Jeep. It occurred to me to count the number of drivers I saw with their windows down. In the forty-five minutes I was in the car I counted one. Me. There were no others. There literally were no others. I was enjoying the smell of the fresh air, the sound of the wind, the feel of the different temperature changes on my arms and face, and the sounds of life around me. The barking of a dog, the voices of kids on the playground of the school I drove by, a man calling his wife to come outside and see the clouds laying low on the hillside above the valley. I heard birds, the rushing of the different creeks I drove by, or over, and I heard a couple of goats making animal sounds at the fence on a nice ½ acre parcel of land in a quaint little neighborhood. I heard a lot of different sounds that I would not have been privy to with my windows up.

We have successfully insulated ourselves from many aspects of the world around us. I understand why we do it, and I do it myself more often than not. Who wants to hear the sound of traffic, motors racing, horns honking, stereos blaring from other cars, or people in a hurry who just cannot contain their own anxiety? We roll up our windows, turn up our own sounds, and turn on the climate control. Enables us to control our environment when we can control so little else of what goes on around us these days. It’s good to have this kind of control, but we’re really missing something along the way.

“Technology is mans way of organizing the world so that he never actually has to experience it.”