Dam it

29 12 2013

dam_burst

Twenty years ago I was sitting in my parents’ home in Spokane looking through the Sunday paper. I use the word “looking” intentionally. I couldn’t possibly read the whole thing, and the point was to get through the whole thing. And mind you, this wasn’t the New York Times Sunday Edition. This was the Spokesman-Review. I remember thinking at the time how thoroughly overwhelmed and underwhelmed I was by the whole enterprise of making my way, page by page, through this printy juggernaut: overwhelmed by the sheer heft of the thing, underwhelmed by the content. Back then, already, I was feeling dumbed down by media. There was just too much information, and I felt back then, as I do now, that we humans weren’t created to care about that much information. And this was news.

Fast-forward to now and the daily dam-break of pixelated media, which is a step or two (or a thousand) beneath newspapers in quality by dint of its ephemeral quality: here one second, gone the next. And it isn’t even news, it’s gossip (aka advertising, or social media, or the latest status update). It’s no wonder we’re simultaneously getting more informed and dumber by the nano-second. We’re being drowned in gossip, pummeled by information; and this isn’t Chinese water torture, this is Old Testament deluge. It’s like having to learn to breathe differently when you’re scuba diving at 80 feet because you’re at a different pressure, only we’re now living at 80 feet of pressure all the time because we’re almost permanently exposed to multiple stimula vying for our attention and allegiance (aka money) and expected to negotiate the multiple messages, many of them contradictory. Our environment is almost perfectly tuned to always distract. What do you think TV and computers and radios were built for?

Mindfulness, which is a modern word for what used to be called living, is now a technique you’re supposed to master in order to really be alive.

Amazing that so many of us have bought into this whole charade hook, line, and sinker without even knowing it. We don’t know what it means any more to simply have our minds emptied long enough to pay attention to our lives, to really listen to the things around us that aren’t trying to sell us something. Ask yourself, what do you do when you get into your car? Turn on the radio? How about when you get home? Turn on the computer? The TV? How often do you check your email? Your FB profile? We’re now the machines, and it’s our lives that are being programmed every hour of every day.

I caught myself tonight, while making a quick drive to the local Vons to buy some whipped cream for the last piece of pumpkin pie, getting angry that there was no good music on the radio. I scanned the entire FM frequency in frustration. Then I woke up. What I was longing for was silence — I’d just forgotten in the cacophony of post-modern living. It’s what I most wanted. I’d just forgotten. Like when your body is really craving water but you grab a Coke instead.

My kingdom for the Real Thing.

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