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Monday, September 9, 2013

Me and The Guy on Ninth


The guy on 9th and Nicollet looks at me.

“The world is getting louder,” he says. “In all kinds of ways. “

I know what he means.  It’s not just the sirens.  Not just the dogs and the airplanes and the birds at dawn – for cryin’ out loud, what are those birds doing?! – but even our personal loudness.  The phones and the iPods and the devices we hadn’t ever thought we’d need, ever be surrounded with.

I was in the elevator the other morning with four other people.  This is not uncommon.  Uncharacteristically, I was not wearing headphones at the time.  But the other four were – and they were all checking their phones.  Heads down, fingers caressing the screens.  And this struck me.  I mean, six-thirty in the morning and there is already something we just have to know, have to check in with?  I’m not saying we should all be fully present, be speaking to each other!  It is, after all, six-thirty; but as a friend, should we be hunched over our phones already?  Hey! I’ve got 45 seconds before the elevator doors open.  I wonder if my freakishly angry political friend on Facebook posted another rude comment?

I can’t help but smile.  It’s six-thirty in the morning!  Really:  is this good for us? 

It’s ridiculous.

I LOL. 

No one on the elevator notices.

Has the world always been this loud, so distracting – so petty?  A thousand years ago, did someone stand out on the prairie, look out over a herd of buffalo and feel a hole in his life left by the lack of something to pull from his pocket and play with? 

How were we so easily trained?

I worry about this, about the stolen silence. 

“The modern man is being led by the nose, man, to just shut up and be distracted," the guy on 9th says.

And I pretend to check my phone to discourage him from asking me for money.

But what if the guy has a point?

What would happen if we weren’t distracted?  

28 comments:

Indigo Roth said...

Hey Pearl!

Your comment strikes at the very heart of the military/industrial complex. Our lives are full of distractions so that real world goes on far away. (Or indeed, on the next table).

The Romans had a similar principle which someone characterised as "Bread and Circuses". Give the masses something to enjoy and they'll not notice foreign policy or the fact that civilisation is crumbling round their ears.

Reality TV? Celebrity culture? Sports? Miley?

*pulls something from his pocket and plays with it*

Roth x

Shelly said...

I read a major study and attended several workshops that gave evidence of the myriad of ways the very structure of our brains is being changed by all the modern distractions.

Scares me, it does.

Pearl said...

So it's NOT good for us, I take it.

:-)

I am seriously considering a retreat, like one of those meditation get-aways...

Shelly said...

There is a place just south of us that is a retreat center with silence as the central theme. Once you check in, you do not speak at all the rest of the time you are there. No electronics, no communication with the outside world...I've thought of it, too, but I don't know if I can keep my blabby mouth quiet for a whole weekend.

bill lisleman said...

thousand years ago - our native tribes hadn't invented the pocket. However I believe the I-gore was around as in "I was gored by that buffalo as I standing wondering why we don't have pockets.

Simply Suthern said...

When the family goes out to eat it seems during ordering they all whoop out the Smart phone and stay unengaged until the food comes. Even then they stop shoveling long enuff to answer a text.

I miss the days of of temporary info detachment.

joeh said...

From Henry Drummond "Inherit the Wind"

Gentlemen, progress has never been a bargain. You've got to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man behind a counter who says, "All right, you can have a telephone; but you'll have to give up privacy, the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote; but at a price; you lose the right to retreat behind a powder-puff or a petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air; but the birds will lose their wonder, and the clouds will smell of gasoline!"

My favorite scene from my favorite movie...kinda fits.

Teresa Evangeline said...

You've hit on a very important aspect of our culture. Yes, we have been given toys to distract us, but the choice is always ours... I'm trying to pull back a bit myself ... I don't text or have any other doo-dads except a cheap cellphone and a laptop computer, but it's more than enough to tell me I'm veering off course...

"The stolen silence." Perfect and concise.

Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Oh Pearl... this is dear to my heart and cannot be flippant about this at all. Indigo's point is absolutely spot on. I believe Shelly may be referring to the Vipassana Retreat - a Buddhistic movement - which is very effective but challenging if you go cold turkey. Simply's comment is a sad indictment to the breakdown in social communications on a practcal level. Joeh's quote is sublime and Teresa's point, pertinent.

My point here is that, as she says, you have found something of a raw nerve. Had been planning a post of similar lines soon - which will still do as a different approach - but had also read another blog this week lamenting the state of FB and its effects. This says to me that all good and intelligent beings are keen to slow the roundabout, if indeed not to dismount!

Having spent a significant portion of the last 2 years in retreat and (comparative) silence, the immanent dive back into the pool of noise is daunting.

...Om Shanti Om... YAM xxx

Mandy_Fish said...

I like my distractions. I'm not terribly good at social interactions with strangers, so the device makes me more comfortable in those situations. I find I'm less anxious. *Shrugs*

jenny_o said...

"How were we so easily trained?"

I think it's the human instinct to do what brings pleasure and avoids pain. It's built in. But good people everywhere have been fighting it forever, in order to become better people. To arms, people!

Douglas said...

Please do not mess with free enterprise. Buy more! Buy the newest! Must have, must have!

On the other hand, you notice that behavior once thought "odd" (even "crazy") is now just assumed to be someone chatting on a cell phone. And dining is no longer an escape from the intrusiveness of society. You have a phone, it rings, you must answer.

"I want to be alone!" [Greta Garbo]

"Look at me! Look at me!" [Miley Cyrus]

Jacquelineand.... said...

I love my silence; I roll around in it and hug it to myself

That said, obviously I love this contraption as well.

My time is pretty evenly divided between the two and therefore I achieve balance.

Joanne Noragon said...

You mean real eye contact. A smile. A good morning. Men touching the brim of a hat.??

That's what happened. Men swapped fedoras and caps for baseball hats, worn backwards. It's been downhill from there.

Geo. said...

I consulted a geographical projection of all human experience and found all of it crosses 9th and Nicollet. Great post, Pearl!

Delores said...

I wonder how people ever managed before we were joined at the hip by our cel phones. People are either texting or listening to music. Is it escapism? Is life really all that bad?

Daisy said...

I sometimes really miss the days when we weren't all so "connected." We seemed to get along fine without all that stuff years ago.

Mr. Charleston said...

Oh, there's more noise that we even imagine. There's all of the invisible noise from the web of microwaves that permeate our bodies 24 hours a day, and the visual noise that blinds us with butt-ugly, and the noise inside our, my, heads, constantly ringing. Pollution comes in so many forms. What the hell, plug in the earphones and tune some of it out.

Elephant's Child said...

I like having time when I am not connected and not accessible. Hell, I insist on having that time. And wear a lot of criticism over it...

Linda Sue said...

I do not text (yet), I have purchased a gross of foam ear plugs which I wear often, so often in fact that the inside of my ears are purple from the pressure, buy, hey, it's quiet, and relaxing, small price! Thank you for allowing me to feel less alone in my complaint.

maurcheen said...

I think you should take some leave, spend some time on one of the Aran Islands off the coast of my homeland. Leave all electronic devices on the mainland, cycle a bike, drink beer, dance, fall down.

I think I should follow my own advice, it's been a while. :¬)

xxx

Gigi said...

As much as I love the technology, I don't understand why so many people feel the need to be THAT connected. It's always nice to step away from the screens and spend time in a quiet, solitary pursuit.

HermanTurnip said...

It's only late at night, as I'm falling asleep, do I actually notice the lack of sound. It's sometimes eerie how quiet quiet can be.

Launna said...

I often wonder the same thing Pearl... yet I am one of those people who checks her phone often... gosh knows what I am missing... not much:)

Kymbo Whitford said...

Back in my day...we called it 'bored' we were all bored and we didnt even know it until the mobile phone and PC's came along to tell us the awful boring truth...

River said...

"...is this good for us?"
NO!
In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, Silence is Golden.

"stolen silence", what a wonderful way to describe the disquieting sounds of today's many, many appliances.

jeanie said...

I am contemplating de-evolving some of the technology around here - and perhaps even being so rash as to try for a whole day or two of radio silence. Chinking the door, as it were.

tiffany rose said...

I resisted the BlackBerry for years but now addicted to the CrackBerry maybe for good.

I laughed but there's a point to the Electronics Free Zone, it's like a detox center I suppose.