Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Two-Inch Universe

Growing up when and where I did, there seemed little chance I'd ever be able to get out and see and experience much of the world. In fact, the first indication I had that I'd beaten the jinx came when I found myself riding into the ancient city of Petra, the "rose-red city half as old as time." That experience I recorded in my recently-published book "Jerusalem Journal".
But it didn't happen until I was nearly middle-aged.
Meanwhile, a lot of years went by in which I had to make do with second-hand experience. Books and reading were basic to this, of course, as I freely roamed the globe and the ages of history in my imagination.
So were movies, of course. The technology of the wide screen--which I thought was the cinematic wave of the future--enabled me to travel the Middle East with Lawrence of Arabia years before I got there in person. Less spectacular but still engrossing films took me to the Greek Islands, Rome, Paris, and other desired destinations I did not expect to see in person. In the end, the technology of the airliner took me to some of these places in the flesh.
So it was modern technology that contributed, more than anything else, to the opening of my previously closed world. And it is with dismay that I note the tendency of modern technology to close us off from the universe around us.
Think about it. The size of the screens on which life is presented to us has dwindled--in some cases to two inches or so. No broad vistas here. And nothing natural to listen to, either--not with ear buds to stick in our ears. We are insulated, not only from bird song, but from potential conversation with other humans. Possibly even from the sound of the out-of-control automobile that, unknown to us, is careening toward us to flatten us.
Is there a cure for this insulation-by-technology? That's a no-brainer. Time to take a break from our gadgets. Turn off. Unplug. Tune out. Time to learn to do something real with your hands: learn to knit, learn to draw, learn to play the harmonica. You can come back to the technology later, when it can really help empower you. In the meantime, "grow" yourself. Use the gadgets as aids; but otherwise, run your own intellectual and spiritual life.

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