Friday, October 2, 2015

This Is Not a Device

(If you'd like to follow along as I read this piece click the SoundCloud player below)

Hey, boys... listen, well, it's pretty much just you and me now.  Here in the twenty-teens as I am currently writing, things are slowing down for me on this page.  There are a lot of reasons.

I don't have the promotional and marketing skills to further my readership, mostly because I don't want to give the twitter and tumbler and instagram and facebook all of my free time, which, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise, were absolutely essential to all this...

What's that?

Right, sorry, none of those are around anymore, are they?  Well, just think about whatever you have your face planted in on your device and...


No one does that anymore, you say.  Really?  Why?

Ah, because you found out in your twenties how empty and vapid it all seemed and the trend led more and more towards having better interpersonal relationships.  Well, that's nicely phrased but I don't understand exactly what you mean.

What's that Nick, it's " our whole generation got lonely and we decided it hurt too much."

I'm sorry for that, son.  I gotta admit I sorta saw it coming.  Back here, in this now, it all makes me lonely sometimes, too.  The false connectivity, the lack of courtesy, the short conversations, the endless abbreviated and misspelled words.  There are no handshakes and hugs in this fake cyberworld, there are no hands patted across the table, no side hugs walking down a street.  There are no sympathetic sighs or audible gasps of outrage, no bursting out of laughter at a clever unexpected joke, no heated arguments, no anger, no passion - just saccherine sweet emojis, and "lol"s and meaningless, empty abbreviations and shallow, unfinished thoughts.

Here's what I can't figure though boys.  It seems from where I am right now that there doesn't seem to be a hope in the world that any of this will change.  I see more and more people - good people, nice people, smart people - further entrenching themselves behind the safety of screens, wielding their phones like shields to keep others out but really making it so that they can't get out themselves.  Folks seem to, well, like this isolation, find false comfort in it.  I don't see it going away.

That's interesting, Zack.  "... I think we wanted to touch things again, hold them in our hands."

Yes, like letters stuffed with slick and shiny photographs.  Like an apple sliced in your palm and shared on the tip of a wet pocket knife.  Like a kitten or a tear-streaked child's face lifted in two hands, safe and comforted.  Like a baseball glove or work glove holding weathered balls or weary axes.  Like a little stuffed bear or a hopelessly worn pillow in the night.  Like the elbow of a friend through the crowded city streets or a hand for the first time on a bench in that park near the amphitheater.

You wanted to touch the vegetables and pull them from the earth, dirt dropping from them like water.  You wanted to climb the apple tree in an orchard buzzing with wasps and singing laughter in the wind.  The same wind you need to caress you as you look out on a mountain range, studded with pines with cold rock to your back and warm sun in your eyes.

You wanted to reach out and try to touch the stuff of dreams.  Never holding hope or lifting love, never feeling the embrace of honor or or the kiss of forgiveness but realizing that what is to be sensed are the hardworking verbs not the lofty nouns.

Yes, Nick, yes I can shut up.

Well, I don't get what changed it all.  It seems, now, so set in stone, so, frankly, destined-to-be.  The devices get better and better, more accepted and more ubiquitous year after year, I don't see what could stop them...

Cars?  Oh, not just cars, "self-driving-vehicles, SDVs, we call them floops."


Something to do with fleets and loops, alright.

So the floops changed everything.  For the price of a month's device support for the crazy-smart-phones and expensive gadgets that had entered the everyday lives of, well, everybody, you could call a floop and visit anybody anytime.

So, basically, you all just started seeing each other more?  Started hanging out and goofin' off and carryin' on and partyin' hearty and dancin' in the dark and drinkin' and...

... you didn't have to worry about getting home.  Yeah, I can see how that would be a game changer.

So, you just hang out with your friends and do stuff together and it's all 1950 again and everyone has a driver?  Oh, so, you still have phones and you still text and stuff, but mostly to just figure where to meet up, what to do, that sort of thing.  Sorta like a phone... in the fifties.

I'm finding this a little hard to believe, guys.

Oh, c'mon Zack!  Let me get this straight.  So more and more people started using the floops and meeting one another and spending far less time on their devices.  The vast infrastructure that had been so brazenly built for advertising and entertainment and social media and advertising, that had, by then, wifi-ed the whole world, was readapted by the commercial "loop fleets" rendering SDVs the safest vehicles in the history of journeying.  Right.  And it's important to note that they are "bitchin' fast."  Thanks, Nick.

But, and you're not making this up, the ad revenue dropped so drastically that new approaches and new campaigns and strategies have been adopted.  Things like quality and fair wages and honesty and loyalty began to influence buyers more than scantily glad models and false promises.  Alright, I can see that, but what's a "crafty?"

Now, stop!  There is no way I am gonna believe that regional craft breweries started opening up little bars and social clubs where people in a small geographic area -a neighborhood, a skyrise, a country village - could meet up and watch sports and have book clubs and sewing circles and folk-singing and pot-lucks.  The breweries made things from local produce, beer and ciders and wine and food and sold them in these local spots brought to them daily by "delivery floops."  There were computers at these places but after a while no one really used them except for research and the like and...

...and they were called "craftys?"  I'm done believing all this, guys.

But, I do hope you aren't lonely and that you hurt less, boys, and I do hope that you touch things that are warm and real and necessary.  I'd sure like to believe it boys.

Maybe I should...

I doubt you remember this, but early this fall we went on a walk around The Two and A Half Acre Woods and you, Nick, found a hairband and put it around your wrist and, just before you left the trail, you, Zack, picked up a twig and a golden leaf and a long flat piece of grass.

When we got home you added the hairband to the long rope of ones you've found over the past few years.

And, Zack, you came home with a vision of what you wanted to hold in your hand.  It doesn't matter that you ended up not using the grass and using the twine instead, in fact I like it better this way.

It is important to note that neither of these are devices, neither are hard and cold and sterile.

No, none of this is a device... unless it all is.

It was nice to see you boys, but, honestly is a little disconcerting so, maybe we should just both stay where we are... or not.  I'll see you again.

Oh, yes, hello to you as well, I didn't see you there.  Thanks for stopping by, as always, peace.


  1. I love this vision of the future, Bill. I pray to God at least some of it comes true. :)

  2. It will only happen if a lot of people work at making it so not just one or two who will then seem odd.

  3. So lovely and it all starts with us. If we can show them that we don't need these things to LIVE, they will too.