At first you might think the title of this entry is a verse from a Bob Dylan song and you would be right—although that is not what this post will address.
My most recent entry was wrapped around a weekend trip and an experience in a Barnes and Noble bookstore that gave me pause to reflect on why people seem to collect in these public spots and then not interact with anyone.
It is kind of like riding the subway in Manhattan—noboby is supposed to look directly at anyone else. You can pan the car you are in visually as long as you don’t let your eyes linger to long on anyone in particular. And there are a lot of people you might want to take a second look at riding the subway in New York. It’s really a people watching paradise—but mostly from park benches and sidewalk cafes—not in the subway.
During my times in New York, I have always been amazed at the fact that most New Yorkers don’t wear sunglasses, which I wear all the time because of headaches if I don’t. When you wear them you can’t see where people’s eyes are and this seems to upset many New Yorkers—although it could just be my imagination.
But I digress. In another somewhat related post I mentioned a book by Gerry Mander entitled, “Four Arguments For The Elimination of Television” in which he talks about the effects this technology has had on our society. Agree or disagree, he does make some strong points about how this medium has shaped us and our understanding of the world around us.
In one review of the book I read online, the author distilled Mander’s first argument in one succinct paragraph which states: “Mander’s first argument centers on the mediation of experience. Speaking not so much about television and more so about how society has progressed, he explains that as humans have moved more and more into controlled living and working environments, we have lost touch with true direct experience. To his mind, this has led to a crisis in knowledge. Everything is interpreted and processed and packaged to the point that the true nature of things is completely lost. This alienating experience narrows the field of vision on life.” (Ali Asadullah)
This statement, in my mind, begs the question: What is Real and what is Not! Or more directly I guess is the question we can ask about the technology we are surrounded with: Is it real or is it not?
(Imagine me typing here for about 30 minutes and not saving it—I think there were a few good thoughts too)
From a practical point of view I think what Mander is saying is that we have allowed the technology around us to determine our happiness or lack thereof. I mean who really “needs” an Ipod or a 120 inch high definition TV or a Hummer. I believe that as a people, as a culture we were happy before all these things were sold to us—during the summer we sat on one another’s porches and played music and told stories. As kids in the car during long trips we made up games to keep us happy and didn’t need a personal CD or DVD player to keep us occupied.
Don’t get me wrong—I like my Ipod—but it has not made my life any better or any worse than it was before I bought it. I don’t have the hassle of toting around cd’s and them getting scratched anymore but what other difference has having one made in my life. Really—is my life any more real now that it was before—no!
In thinking about what is real and what is not we can easily get lost in the concept—the idea if you will—of what is and is not real.
I believe that hanging out in the woods is real—listening to the wind as it stirs the leaves of the maple trees and the sound of small animals moving through the undergrowth…not to mention the bird noises and the lack of automobile starts and stops. Yet, at the same time, I enjoy a four day trip to New York with its hustle and bustle and people everywhere and museums and pizza on the streets. I know that that is not “really real” and that eventually I will make my way back to the mountains of North Carolina where my everyday reality takes shape.
In the aforementioned lost blog sentences, I extrapolated my thoughts about the Amish and Menonites that I have tended to romanticize ever since I knew about them. Here was a group of people who couldn’t be sold to—who marched to the beat of their simple lifestyle drummer. Yet in my business travels to their part of the country, I was told in no uncertain terms, by a merchant who dealt with them everyday, that they were just like everybody else and needed salvation too. A simple lifestyle—in and of itself—will not get you into heaven. It’s like Keith Green said at one point in his ministry: going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a McDonald’s makes you a hamburger. Way to go Keith!
So is their lifestyle really any more real than mine—I would have to say no at this point.
So, can I safely say that real is whatever works for you. No, it is a lot more complex than that.
But I am on the trail to find out what is and what is not real. It is a ride that I am looking forward to. Happiness is not a warm gun but a conversation with a wife, a husband or a good friend.