So yesterday my computer went into the shop and I’ve just gotten it back, now with new speakers.  It was in the shop all of 24 hours, and I found this to be a bit of a surreal experience.  It’s amazing – and a little disturbing — how much of my daily life has come to be centered in this piece of hardware and all that it does for me.  This is partly due to the fact that my family and friends are scattered all over the world and partly due to the fact that I am a graduate student.  But as I sit outside the Apple store to type this and check my email, I can’t avoid the fact that we are truly in a world radically different from the one I grew up in: communication is an entirely different affair from what it used to be.

Is the hold that tech has on us a good thing? Yes and no.  I slept in this morning, read a book and took a long walk by the lakes.  I saw two great blue herons (one in flight at close range), two Baltimore orioles, several redwing blackbirds (one of which was scolding and chasing  a ferret),  a mother bird teaching a baby to fly, a large number of geese and ducks, and lots of amazing prairie grasses and flowers. I painted in a journal.  While I can walk and look and rest and paint when I have my computer, these activities have a different flavor in the digital silence.

Well, I’ve scanned my email accounts and checked facebook.  Time to take my silicon-brain-friend home.  This experience has me thinking about how the computer humanizes me, by bringing my friends just a bit closer, and yet how important it probably is to take vacations from the digital world.

11 thoughts on “Surreal

  1. I love your last line — “thinking about how the computer humanizes me, by bringing my friends just a bit closer, and yet how important it probably is to take vacations from the digital world.” I think part of what you are pointing to has to do with your awareness of what it means to live a contemplative life — and I think that kind of “being present” is an important practice regardless of the media people invite into their lives!

  2. First off I want to say I’m happy the speakers were an easy and quick fix. I know it is frustrating when things work one day and do not the next.

    But I appreciated your view of your reaction to being without digital communication in our lives. We do take it for granted and part of the reason I’m happy not to have a smart phone is because you become even more tied to the digital world and forget to exist in the presence with those immediately surrounding you. Just as we learn as a child to wait our turn to speak and to seek permission to interrupt a conversation, I think we need to learn how to use media in our lives without letting it control and interrupt us especially when we have others who are present and need our full attention as well.

    Now to plan a digital media vacation. Maybe that will happen the end of July when I have finally finished all my classes.

  3. Chris,
    This is the second posting on this concept that I’ve responded to tonight. It continues to be interesting.
    Your comments about the change that you’ve seen in technology over your lifetime really got me thinking. I’ve seen the same type of arch, though admittedly technology was a little farther along when I started paying attention.
    That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to witness the development of technology in many wonderful ways. On the flip side there are those that are coming into the world “as is.” My daughter is 4 and knows how to run an ipod. She can click her way around a computer (though limited at this point). Neither of my kids will ever know the reality of taking a picture and having to wait for the roll of film to finish out and then be developed. They know that you take a picture and then you look at it. If you don’t like it, you simply hit delete…no problem.

    This is the world that we are now a part of. We talk about (and sometimes even do) take vacations from our technologies. Perhaps to remember the good old days of being “disconnected and unreachable.” Will the next generation even consider doing the same thing?

  4. Chris,
    isn’t it wonderful to be able to take a walk and contemplate creation, and yet come home and connect with our friends and our interior life. Is the bits and bytes of our electronic world another form of creation to be valued for what it is and what it can do? I think so. Bust just as we require a vacation from our regular lives, we sometimes need to take a break from our electronic lives so that we may refresh and renew ourselves.
    God created us in God’s image so that we may also take a step back and examine the creation of our lives and determine that it is good. All of it – including the connections we have made in our “silicon-brain-friend.”

  5. Your post reminded me of the movie “Wall E” from a few years ago. Do you remember? This cartoon brought us into a world where everyone sat around in chairs and their entire existence was centered around the computer screen in front of them. Yes, this movie was a cartoon – set in the future – and completely unreal, until we look at how we live life now. We walk around with iPads, cell phones (my 11 year old grandson thinks he needs one), and portable computers that fit in our backpacks/purses. Some days when school is in full session I spend more time on the computer than I do with my living family in the next room. I believe our technology is great in many respects, but at times I miss talking with neighbors across the back yard fence instead of on Facebook.

    • Never saw the movie, but it sounds like I don’t have to. Thanks for your thoughts! Its a seismic shift, this use of time. If we gathered it all together, all the time we spend on the screen for one reason or another, it would add up to a large percentage of our time, so it’s worth taking a digital holiday now and then, just to notice.

  6. I think that if technology has a hold on us, in that we need it to function, it is a bad thing. However, if we can see technology as a tool, which makes our lives function at a higher level – as our ancestors did with fire, hunting weapons, etc – then we are the ones who hold technology, and this is a good thing.

    If internet allows me to keep in contact with many friends, this is good. If my primary social connections are through Facebook, this is bad. If I can I save trees, space, and time by banking online, this is good. If I am I unable to improvise in order to function for a few days without internet or technology, this is bad.

    • Sounds like, for you, the issue is whether we own it or it owns us. I would agree, with the caveat that for most of us it’s some of both. And it’s not totally cut and dry; if my primary social contacts are through fb, there may be a time and a place for that to be necessary, and it’s better than feeling completely isolated in some cases. We are still learning how this functions, and it’s hard to get it down into black and white at the moment. Thanks for your thoughts!

  7. I see here something stated that I have been thinking over for a while: we are becoming global. My fear is that with the shrinking of the world what will those who seek a piece of the world for themselves do? At times I feel that people were content to own their own farm, sustaining their own lives and those of their neighbors. Populations were limited to small towns. People might go one town over for a Friday night out and that was the extent of it. Now we go cities away just to see a ball game. States don’t seem so big anymore, nor do their borders seem to maintain a separation. How long will it be before country borders are no longer intimidating for businesses and progress? People travel all over the world now for work, more so than years ago. We are becoming global. So again I ask what happens to those who don’t want globality but something of their own?

    • Thanks for this post. There is something important in what you are saying. Many of us were raised in a quiet life and feel most comfortable in a smaller space. I’d like to think that there are options and that people certainly can opt out of a lot of this “globality” (great word, by the way.) Not everyone has to have a job that requires jetting around, and heaven knows the earth can’t afford for everyone to aspire to that life. But I’m not sure we can escape some aspects of the global village. Centuries ago, getting news from one state to another took days by means of a horse and rider, or a coach and four horses. Now we have instant messaging and texting and can, if we make the right networking moves, stay reasonably current from thousands of miles away. This increasingly brings us many new options. It also increases, like it or not, our responsibility. Once we know what is happening, unless we can continue in the state of being that allows us to think “it isn’t really happening”, as if we were the audience watching a fictional event, we have some sense of involvement. We are sad when children around the world die in a tsunami; we want to help. We are angry when planes fly into the Trade Center towers, an event we would not have known about for months if at all, had it happened 2 centuries ago if we did not live on the eastern seaboard. Our human nature seems to require of us some sort of response to these situations, hence our response-ability is going global.

      To a great extent, your “how long” is a moot point. All this is already happening. Yes, we can opt out individually to some extent, choosing a local focus in a rural area, for instance, except that I think that to fully opt out of the global connection we would have to unplug. That’s the cost.

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