The Real World

I’m always thinking up posts that are in response to something I’ve seen in the media or on-line. My understanding of what most people are thinking and doing these days is taken from secondary sources. Not many people talk about anything serious in public anymore—at least not here in San Francisco where people are supposedly controversial and outspoken. I find that when I’m outside, moving through the real world, most people are just passing from one building to another—a cafe, a restaurant, a job, a store, and so on. It feels dead out there. When I first arrived in San Francisco, people were out on the streets talking and checking out interesting people and places. Now, everybody’s at home or at work staring at a monitor. The last couple of years, I’ve been a cave dweller, too. One of the things I loved most about the wild parrots was the reminder that reality is magical. We’ve withdrawn our attention from the real world. Gadgets impress us more, but gadgets aren’t magic. Magic is where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Technology is never more than the sum of the parts.

I’m going to start getting out more.

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9 Responses to “The Real World”

  1. pochp Says:

    Bravo! Your post is the best I’ve read about reality against technology.

  2. Luke Winikates Says:

    Hi Mark,

    I do have a kind of similar feeling of wishing that it was more common to engage more with the world. I’m relatively pro-gadget, though. Most technology isn’t that emotionally powerful, but it is the work of human hands. A lot of people overdo it, sure. I wouldn’t trade a good conversation for a an equal number of minutes with my computer or my television, but I can say I’ve been emotionally moved by a piece of software before.

    • markbittner Says:

      I wouldn’t say it’s the work of human hands so much as it’s the work of our brains. In the meantime, the heart, the spiritual heart, is atrophying. Heart is higher and more satisfying than brains.

  3. Luke W. Says:

    The hands are the means of transmission though. I think you’re coming from the right place but I just want to make sure there’s room for the odd tech-industry type or two in the world you’re hoping to see. And I’m not trying to be an apologist for the impatience and solipsistic feedback loops that some people who are in love with their possessions fall into.

    And maybe I can’t persuade you that there’s much of value and that there’s a human element of craft in some of the gentler electronic inventions. Even I have trouble seeing it sometimes but I have enough faith in people generally to know that it’s there when I can’t see it.

    But machines don’t make themselves, and technology as a tool and not a focus does sometimes help people communicate or find one another or find writing music or other human traces that benefit their spiritual side in a meaningful way.

    It’s a pleasure to read your blog posts; I hope you don’t mind too much these responses of mine, which are intended with the utmost respect.

    • markbittner Says:

      The first thing I want to say is in response to “I hope you don’t mind too much these responses of mine.” I don’t mind them at all. There’s nothing to mind. I invite comment.

      It can’t be said that I’m anti-technology in and of itself. I run two different operating systems in three different ways, work with Photoshop, make my own web site, and so on. Neighbors call me when they have computer problems. What I don’t like is that it’s not integrated into our lives. It hasn’t found its natural place. A lot of people live for technology—enthusiastically!—and what I’m saying is: that’s not the way. We all have to deal with the fact that we’re going to die some day. There’s nothing more important than that fact, and technology can do nothing to prepare us for it. It’s a tool, yes. Tools are neutral, yes. But they’re just tools. Sometimes I feel that I spend too much time exploring the tools instead of making things with them.

  4. pochp Says:

    ‘But machines don’t make themselves, and technology as a tool and not a focus does sometimes help people communicate or find one another or find writing music or other human traces that benefit their spiritual side in a meaningful way.’

    Very good argument Luke. As I’ve said in my post ‘Bad Blackberry?’,
    technology is neutral. It’s up to us how to use it.

  5. pochp Says:

    No worry Mark. I’m just as guilty as you are sometimes. lol 🙂

  6. Cate Viscusi Says:

    I’m reading this two years later, 1/19/12. I’m particularly struck by two of your comments, Mark: that people seem less willing to be controversial and outspoken, and that we’ve drawn our attention from the real world into an electronic world. I think this is true. We live in a culture of fear created in large part by the slow move toward a police state–given its greatest validity after 9/11; and we live in a culture where we are abdicating control–letting our minds be mesmerized by a corporate agenda in which natural light has been hijacked by electronic media. We’re stronger than this, but we’re forgetting. . .

    • markbittner Says:

      We get one more chance to roll back the insanity. It’s difficult to explain why I believe this is true. But I’m convinced that that we do. If we blow it, there’s going to be serious, serious trouble.

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