I have a friend who, last time I checked in, logs over 93 hours a week playing the SIMS. This SIMS is a video game in which you have a virtual 'avatar' that you have to feed and make sure they go to work and socialise in a perfect harmonious rhythm determined by an algorithm designed by the toy maker. 93 hours a week. That is twice as much as most of us work.
I say that with a certain amount of disbelief but if you clocked the hours that my screen is lit (it automatically turns off after 5 minutes of no activity) you would find that I am plugged into a reality equally as 'virtual' for at least that amount of time. I note the above with sadness, not disdain, for the loss of something important that I, and I think we, are starting to be able to put our fingers on as a culture.
My sister coined the 'Whole Friends' movement as an intentional return to valuing the one on one. While I am the first official member of that fan club, I think the real issue is not as simple as that we are all looking at screens instead of at one another. When we are plugged in, what are we plugged into?
I went home for Christmas and mentioned off-hand about Obama's Dec 15th signing away an American citizen's right to a fair trial with a jury of our peers, and no one believed me. No one at the table believed that it really happened.
Mind you, the wonderful human beings who I was surrounded by at the Christmas table are not people who I would consider slouches. These are people who I would place above average on the engagement scale, generally. They read the paper, they go to church and help their communities, they watch the evening news. Not one of them was aware that 10 days before, Obama signed away an important piece of our identity as Americans.
After inquiring further it turns out their only sin, if it can even be called that, is that they are lazy curators of the information they consume. It evoked the study at Fairleigh Dickinson University where pollsters found that Fox news consumers are less informed about current affairs than people who do not report watching or reading the news at all.
It occurred to me that one of the tragedies of this time/space in America is that we are so distracted by the absolutely unimaginable quantities of information and crap that we consume daily (much of it on credit and much of it virtual), that we are unaware that we are losing anything at all. Or if we are aware of the loss, we cannot fully grasp the degree to which the things we are loosing now will effect us later.
We have so much that we can not say what of it is really valuable. On the other side of the world we know that our ability to have these things is purchased on the backs of tragedies that we could not even imagine if we tried.
And we generally don't try. We do not think we can do anything about it anyhow. Even with so much (purchase) power, we feel powerless in the face of the inevitable effects of the things we do and the things we buy. And buy. And buy.
I'm resolving to do something about it this year. I'm slimming down. I started with old journals, and moved on to my 'important' papers I had been saving - like the old SAT scores and awards from High School, and the old resumes and the ribbons, and then finished that same day off with photographs and negatives. I kept the art. I'm keeping a handful of pictures. The next day I went through my clothes and books and have at this point probably cleared 2 cubic yards in total. And counting.
I have a collection of hardware, screws, nails, rivets, snaps, pulleys, hinges, angles that I can't seem to find it in me to go through. Seems too chaotic to give away, and like too much a building block to toss.
I want to build something, you see. I know there is a world where we can all have what we need. I know that we are being kept from unimaginable wealth, and I am equally certain that the scales are starting to shift into balance. I know that my giving away the things I do not use is a part of that shift. That it is my part, my responsibility. I have been given so much.
And although I am not sure if talking about it will make a difference, I am writing this anyhow because I am unwilling to give up and I do not know what else to do. We are more lovely and powerful than we have been led to imagine and now is a time to cultivate and know that. To trust that we are not the things we have accumulated, and know ourselves instead as the humanity we choose to cultivate.
I invite anyone who has made it this far to join me. We are too beautiful to give up on, and too blessed to fail.