Thursday, April 4, 2013

I'm not ready yet to throw in the towel!

From time to time, I'm reminded of the times of pure goodness brought into my life when in the company of friends and family.  Pink Floyd said it well in their song Free Four from the album "Obscured by the Clouds"-

The memories of a man in his old age
Are the deeds of a man in his prime.

I was struck by the importance of that when I first heard this song - as a relatively young man.  Time has only heightened my perception of the significance of the message therein.  In today's electronic world, where so much of what passes for communication is by electronic means, the simple act of meeting and spending time together requires more commitment than sitting at a keyboard.  Personal, physical contact is an act, a deed, if you will, that requires effort and often involves costs.

In the electronic sphere, where most of the conversation is through a keyboard, we have the sorry spectacle of flame wars, miscommunication, divisiveness, outright nastiness, anger, and just outright ugliness.  Such "communication" doesn't involve the intimacy of physical proximity, where your nonverbal communication is at least as important to the process as your spoken words.  It now often involves Internet "memes" - mostly graphic images with a few words - that inevitably oversimplify and serve only to divide us with slogans and generalizations or to reinforce existing beliefs.

If you go only by the torrent of what passes for communication via the keyboard, it's not difficult to become cynical - disillusioned - with humanity.  Yes, there are some efforts to communicate at a deeper level than political/religious/social memes, and there some items that carry messages of hope and happiness.  But I sense a growing alienation from one another and anger in the USA and the world.   Perhaps we are building toward a James Kunstler-esque apocalypse that will shatter today's world and leave us with a "Mad Max" nightmare of predatory gangs, dying technology, and violence.  That is certainly one possible future for us.   But it's not the only one.

The electronic media are full of dire predictions - doom and gloom that will proceed if we continue to depart from a (largely mythical) ideal past state, if we continue toward a theocratic oligarchy, if we continue toward socialism, if we continue toward thought control, if we continue toward a "one world" view that abandons our national chauvinism, if we continue toward atheism, if we continue toward ecological disaster, if we continue down any of a vast array perceived paths to dissolution and degradation.  And the Internet allows free rein to pessimistic slogan-mongering and superficial thinking.  We as a species are vulnerable to demagogues of all sorts, who claim to see evils around every corner and are trying to rally us to them for guidance about what to do.  And all too many of us are willing to follow them, unable or unwilling to pierce the fog of words and slogans.  There are few voices calling for thoughtful, careful, honest appraisals these days.  It's mostly about rallying against something, not something positive.

But when I pause and ponder those moments in my past to which I look back with the most happiness, they're dominated by occasions when I was in the company of certain people.  Friends and family who've somehow managed to pierce the barriers that separate our seemingly isolated minds.   We've achieved real communication by the simple act of being in each other's company, sharing something we enjoy - food, drink, the natural world in all its beauty and harmony, art in its many forms - and, above all, that companionship of others in our journey toward personal death.

What we say in our words is nothing when compared with what we do with our lives.  And what we do usually falls short of what we say.  Few of us can say we've availed ourselves of every possible opportunity to be with friends and family.  Social media can bridge that gap only so much.  Treasure those moments.  The act of sharing space and time together with friends and family will produce the memories that comfort you on your deathbed.  I doubt that "keyboard moments" are capable of that.

1 comment:

Garrett Fornea said...

No doubt about it - there is nothing quite like being with friends and family face to face, in person. My mother once seems like the more ways we have to communicate, the less human contact we actually have.