I understand that we all live in a divided world, but for some, this is harder to see because they are unaware of the spell cast upon them. We are like the frogs in boiling hot water, “the A.I.D.S to our defenses”(Postman, P. 63), the dengue to our heart, the death to our humanity.
What I speak of is not a disease, but if we are to appeal to the authority of a doctor or psychologist, we might as well consider ourselves doomed, “For every illness has a remedy, and for every remedy causes another illness” (Postman p. 103). We allow ourselves to fall victims to the vicious cycle that is the ratification of our own human condition. We have become victims of our own created disease, and most of us do nothing but help spread it.
When was the last time you sat down at the dinner table when the whole family was present? The honest say they cannot remember, for others, honesty means never. Most of us would excuse ourselves and say that we were busy doing something to trump the importance of the occasion. “We have become the capitalist family, always fleeting to avoid judgment from our own human consciousness” (De Zengotita, p. 175). Someone was too busy putting bread on the table, but what about putting heart in the soul? Excuses, all excused by one authority or another, but to whose authority are we really appealing to? Is it G_d?, The doctors orders? Or the text message we just received? I must excuse myself from writing this essay, for I have a new friend request, and it must be someone very important. Who knows? But it is important to me, or should I say to us to free myself from any sense of guilt? The new incoming email I just received may be barring the fruits for a new job, so under these circumstances, I excuse myself and dinner can wait.
Everything can wait, because we can have dinner together, tomorrow. One day tomorrow may never come, and dinner will be waiting, cold and soggy in the refrigerator. If the fridge were not there, the food would spoil, and if the microwave did not exist our meals would not be hot. Unfortunately the microwave cannot warm our hearts, and cold-hearted we sit alone to eat. But wait! We have found company! Let us introduce to the family our newest member, the TV.
We have introduced many members to the family, and unlike the rest of the family these ones do not judge. “They also come equipped with options, even the option to mute, pause, fast-forward and rewind, they allow us the ability to do as we wish”(De Zengotita, p. 17). One thing we cannot wish is the ability to be heard, or for someone to listen. The most frequent thing we hear is, but IT understands me, so we find comfort in the machine.
“The ability for computers to reflect human interaction is that they are becoming more like us” (Carr, p. 202). The truth of the matter is that they reflect like us, but are in fact not us. It is like finding comfort in talking to a mirror and having a platonic dialogue with your self. It is a way of comforting ourselves, and reassuring ourselves that the actions we are taking are just. We are numbing the soul and putting it to sleep until this liminal phase yields to a narcissistic human being who like Narcissus, dies of starvation from the adoration of his own reflection. The metaphorical principal in this essay is not that we die from starvation but that we deprive the soul from the food it needs. Anxious and angered we become “when we realize that the machine is nothing like us” (Postman, P. 112). Like the alternate ending of Narcissus, it is not that we starve ourselves to death but in effect kill ourselves after an existential battle with the truth. This means suicide at the realization that we have been duped, and the only one to blame is our self. But to whom do we cry? Who will help us? I know someone who has the answer, he goes by the title of Doctor, and he holds the remedy to our malaise.
“One pill a day” the doctor said, “it keeps my mal-practice away.” It seems as if even the doctor is too busy to get at the heart of the problem, but who is the doctor to diagnose a broken heart? “Economics, the chance of mal-practice, the courts, and the bureaucrats, it seems that technology is here to save the day” (Postman, P. 102). A one pill, quick fix, and if anything goes wrong the accountability is on the system. But who is “the system“ this doctor speaks of? Is it someone, or is there a group of people I can blame? “I know!” screams someone in the crowd; “it was the stupid machine!”, as if machines had the ability to reason what is right form wrong.
“If an individual is unable to recognize that certain rational or irrational actions are coming from a machine and not a human being, we falsely believe that machines have the ability to reason” (Carr, p 206). When we fall victim to the spell cast upon us by a machine, we point the finger at the machine and not the operator, I mean heck, and if the operator is not even present who do we have to blame but ourselves? As of late, there is no accountability for our actions. Like Shakespeare wrote, “[we act as if the] world is a stage and we are all but merely players in it”(Crowther, p 96), but in our narrative we have been given roles that we never chose to play. The truth is that we are more like Pontius Pilates and the washing of his hands at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. We blame those who created the machines, and those who use them. We see ourselves as nothing but accessories to ill intended actions, but truth be told, we are all guilty. It is always an “if and but” about our own use of technology, “for if we don’t become competent with the use of technology, we fall behind, we become part of the lesser group, inferior at best” (Postman p. 9). It is Darwin’s theory of evolution, and the survival of the fittest. While we strive to become fit, it seems that physically we have become fat, and while we have become so rich, our souls have in a sense become marginalized.
“While some of us become gluttons by vanity” (Lewis, p 89), our excess has lead to the loss of social capital. Most people may not understand what social capital is because they have never experienced it. If they did they may have had no idea what it was, but it did bring a strange and icky feeling to their gut when their souls felt the warmth. Do you know what I am talking about? Maybe you remember the time your significant other broke up with you. Some of us felt too proud to accept our loss, others gave in to the weight of the broken heart and called their best friend that is if they had not called them first. But who was there to fix it in the end if all we got was a: “I’m sorry to hear about your loss?” Was it Xanax? Soma? Jack Daniels? Or was it actually a physical someone? “Descartes’s says that the realm of science and the spirit should never meet”(Carr, p. 23), so we prescribe the body medicine to remedy its illnesses. But as of late nothing has been done to remedy the soul, so we prescribe more medications than ever that have more malignant side effects than good ones in return.
We must become aware that there is no pill for the soul, or a drink for good health. There is only love, which no scientist has been able to synthesis. “It is honesty and trust that allows us to remedy the illness of the soul” (Putnam, p. 135). It is the trust we have in someone else that will be there to accompany us during times of hardship. It is love and companionship that will follow us to our death. We do not want the last supper to be a lonely one, with our only companion being Dr. Phill on a TV screen as you lay alone, dying in your deathbed. Rigged to machines that keep us alive for the sake of science, and we do it just because we can, when all we truthfully wanted was for someone to hold our hand in our journey to a different world.
So let us eat together, for this supper may be the last. “This is my body, which is for you; this do in remembrance of me” (Corinthians 11:23-25). Before we forget that we need each other, let us share this bread together, tonight, to remember that we are a family unit and not a family disunited.
Carr, Nicholas. “The Shallows”. W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2011
Crowther, John C. William Shakespeare’s, “No Fear” As you Like It. Spark Educational Publishing, New York, 2004
De Zengotita, Thomas. “Mediated”. Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, 2005
Lewis, C. S. “Screwtape Letters”. Harpercollins, New York, 2001
Putnam, Robert D. “Bowling Alone”. Simon & Schuster paperbacks, New York, 2000
Postman, Neil. “Technopoly”. Vintage books, New York , 1992