Indeed it has finally happened. Well, actually it happened years ago, but now seemed a good time to complain about it. I’ve officially had it with having access to all human knowledge. Yeah, you heard me. I’m completely sick and tired of the fact that I can hop onto Google right now and in a few keystrokes find the answer to any conceivable question or more likely, three or four answers.
Boy, I remember those halcyon days of pristine uncertainty and ignorance in the 70s and 80s. Sometimes you’d hear a song on the radio and you’d walk around for weeks not knowing who the artist was, just waiting on the off chance that they’d play the song again or you’d run into somebody who knew what record the song was on. But now, the fun of ignorance, the anticipation of resolution, and the jubilance of discovery have all vanished. Any idiot with a computer can tell you the atomic weight of lead or why ‘Pounds’ is abbreviated ‘lbs.’ The value of smart people in this planet has diminished almost to nil. Time was, I got 2 or 3 calls a week from people asking about the solubility of sodium at 45 degrees Celsius or some other obscure bit of forgotten lore but now I’m lucky if anyone calls at all. And when they do they don’t seem to give a damn about anything of real interest. It’s hardly worth the effort to know anything at all. I might as well watch TV.
While we’re on the subject of things I’m sick of, let me tell you what else I could do without. I’ve had enough of ‘Undo.’ It’s about time people in this country started taking responsibility for their mistakes. From now on, when I make a typing mistake I’m going to just cross it out and go on, none of this fancy ‘backspace’ crap. Better yet, I’ll just close the whole document and start over. That’s real moral responsibility. Take a stand, delete the damn thing and start from the beginning. It’s always better the second time anyway.
And what’s happened to entertainment? In my day, you listened to the whole album. None of this ‘download one track and listen to it over and over’ crap. If you wanted to listen to one track on a record you took it out of the sleeve, then took it out of the paper liner, looked on the album cover, counted the little tiny gaps and dropped the needle somewhere near where you thought it should go. Back then, music took effort. You listened to the whole album in the order the artist intended, none of this ‘shuffle’ B.S. Music, as an art form, was perpetuated in its proper context. Song B follows song A, etc. Imagine how different the Beatles Sgt. Pepper would be all shuffled up or just cut apart for the singles. Personally, I can’t listen to ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ without hearing ‘Getting Better’ afterwards. Nowadays when an artist releases an album there are 2-3 tracks of songs people actually want to hear along with 6-7 songs of random filler that nobody EVER listens to. Isn’t that great? Somehow we’ve got more artists, more albums but less actual music that anyone likes. That makes a lot of sense.
Now television… there’s an art form that’s completely run amok. When I was a wee lad we had four stations. If there was a storm in the area we had five. Nowadays there are hundreds. It’s funny, when we only had four stations we did things. Nobody could stand to sit that long and watch those same four stations all day long. We did silly things like go outside and run around, play games, talk to each other, read books, the list was endless. Now though, we’re such an advanced culture that we have no need of such pedestrian activities. If one channel doesn’t suit our needs of the moment then surely there’s another one among the 597 choices that is showing exactly what we want to see. Why bother to interact with one another when we can be staring at a screen! It makes me wistful to think, though, of the cumulative mental and physical energy we would have free if we went back to four inane stations. Why, the roller-rinks would be crawling with happy children! All the drive-in theatres would be back in business! The libraries and bookstores would be swamped with patrons! Children would speak Latin and Greek in the streets as they played kick-the-can and stickball while Mozart concertos blasted from their boom-boxes. It’d be a veritable utopia of enlightenment and delight! Well… maybe not complete utopia, but I’d say it’s worth a shot. Let’s throw away our TVs and see what happens.
As a people, we have the capacity to be great and the capacity to be nothing. The world gives us great technology and sends us the message that if we use it, we’ll be great people. If we watch the new CNN Financial show we’ll make a lot of money on the stock market. “Knowledge is Power!”, they croon. “If we buy the newest, fastest computer we’ll be so much more productive,” they promise. And they’re right. Knowledge is power and productivity is something we all want more of but we must remember that it’s directionless power. That home improvement show may have given you the power to fence in your back yard but until you actuate the power you’ve been given you’ve gained nothing. The productivity of your new computer could be used to balance your checkbook or it could waste four hours of your time surfing the web. Technology gives us the power to drive ourselves further and faster into the direction we want to go but ultimately what direction we choose is still determined by our ability to overcome the most basic human frailties.