I never in my life ever expected humanity’s ever-increasing appetite for acceleration to come to the point that the very act of reading would become a veritable Asperger’s simulation chamber.
But it’s happened. Don’t believe it? Peep this app:
I don’t think I even need to explain the idea. And this is a simple run-through at 500wpm.
There’s a point where I want to to read the words JUMPED THE SHARK slowly. There’s a point where finally, I’ve metastasized from a literary consumer reading A Beautiful Mind to becoming the guy from it–where I’m mumbling to myself in some overwrought, autistic haze with theorems, graphs and formulas floating in three-dimensional z-space.
Isn’t it enough that we went from DVD to Blue-ray? Then from that to the point that the informational and overload of detail is now just that: overload.
Those inclined to think my subtle Rain Man references are caustic and out-of line; listen. I have just cause.
Let’s start with film. The industry standard for cinema is 24 frames per second. This standard is what we seem to truly be engineered to digest. Just enough detail–or implied detail–and our brains literally fill in the minor gaps. Motion blur is a good thing–not an aberration. It’s something we deal with in real life. We were never meant to see every hair on a person’s face–we were meant to see a few, and let the peripheral vision do its thing.
Yet, instead of seeing a pan shot of a wheat field in tried-and-true cinematic output, we’re now hooked up to a 4k, definitional espresso IV bag that now forces us to see EVERY. SINGLE. BLADE. OF. GRASS.
In the crass world of “more is always better:” I guess it’s technically true.
In the world where the mind needs to rest, it’s a cerebral holocaust.
But what about our minds?
That’s right. Our minds. We’ve become so concerned with running this engine at premium RPMs, that we’ve forgotten to simply let it idle now and then. Or . . . Shut it down and run the radio off the battery for a while.
Perhaps I am the only person on the continent that feels this way. And I don’t know what happened, but somewhere along the road of my lifetime, our anthropological Han Solo sat in front of our synaptic control board told our developmental Chewie to throw the light speed toggle–and never pull it back. Ever. Again.
And this app takes whatever agoraphobic inner-child I may be nurturing, and has it shuttering the house. Boarding the windows. Huddling in the kitchen with a Glock.
What about space?
Think about the nature of the Spritz app. Is the “accomplishment” worth the trade off?
The reading process for me is one of space. One of timing. One of pauses that I may decide to impute to a section of the sentence–and usually based on the way I interpret the punctuation.
Half the reason I’ve literally laughed out loud reading Mark Twain’s The Innocent’s Abroad is the words.
The other half of the reason is precisely something else: The space between them. the pauses. The implied breaths taken by the existential voice in my head that I hear as the words scroll through my frontal lobe.
And this app will have none of that superfluous space nonsense. Oh, you’ll read read The Hunger Games all right. And you will perceive ZERO narrative contrast between the frenzied, inaugural battle for supplies and the tender song at Rue’s death.
But yay. You jammed it in 45 minutes. Because you became an absorbent drone. And you will become a cyborgish data port with no heart. For Space.
Imagine for a minute, a compressed version of Beethoven’s 5th–with all 32nd notes and all jammed infinitesimally close together.
Congratulations. You’ve just relegated the majestic to some schizophrenic morse code beta test.
I don’t know what I expected to happen. We’ve freebased every single aspect of life. There was a day when Jolt soda was the satanic antecedent to Red Bull, Red Line, Monster, and every other Ginseng extract-with-a-Taurine-moon-rising; the anti-roofie–which gave us the ability to run the Baja dunes with a missing wheel AND a busted drive-line. 5-hour energy drinks have fallen on the gauntlet-floor to a thumbs down concession to some other 8-hour bottle in Nero’s coliseum.
Video games are constantly laying graphics-rleated, UFC smack downs to their own previous versions. The obsessions of more and better and accelerated are caving to bigger, superlative and light-speed.
Just don’t stop and take a breath.
I suppose this app has some redeemable value–but only in the case of absorbing the static, pedestrian data that would invoke the demon Narcolepsus without having it summoned from the parchment. And maybe Thomas Pynchon’s endless run-ons find parity here.
But you’re never going to hear the whispers of CS Lewis, or the see the imageries of Emily Dickinson with this supposed milestone on the road to improvement.
If–that’s where the road actually leads. I’m not sure.
I could not agree with you more. Society’s obsession with more is out of control. Take Hollywood. More violence. More sex. More digitally enhanced detail of every gory and salacious moment. Believe it or not there was a time when the bedroom was off limits to the camera and we were better off for it. More and faster is not always better. What happened to the story line and character development? I am diligently trying to slow myself down and divest myself of the false need to rush onward. I want to absorb the world around me. That takes time and stillness. Time I have. Stillness is a work in progress. Good read Ron. Keep it coming
While at my mom’s, watching HGTV, we see this happening just before the onslaught of 4 minutes of regular obnoxious ads. There are about 3 nano seconds of an ad about a youth shelter, or something like that, we can’t really clarify it. It happens to fast that it’s over and on to the “big” ads before we can say “did you see that?” When I first noticed it and mentioned it to my mom, she said she had been seeing it, and wondered if it was just her imagination. I call it subliminal advertising. They’re showing you their product, and you aren’t really aware of the fact. I wonder how much they pay for that spot.
I’ve been interested in the concepts of space and place for several years. There are a couple of good books I can recommend on the subject. One is “Space and Place: The Experience of Perspective” by Yi-Fu Tuan, and the other is “Getting back into Place: Toward a Renewed Understanding of the Place-World,” by Edward S. Casey. Sense of place requires converting space into place, which requires time. People are increasingly without “place” in their lives, and live and act as “displaced” persons. There is some good research literature on this.
Simplifying is another concept that has interested me. Can I simplify my life and get out of the “rat race” and be content with less? Can I apply the concepts of simplicity to my work, my home, and any other pursuit I have in life? One reason I enjoy running is it is simple – not a lot of equipment required. Just grab some running sneakers and head out the door.
Our church does something once a year called “August Unplugged Sundays” which is a 24-hour period from 6 pm Saturday night through 6 pm Sunday night. It is a cessation of electronics devices of any kind (including cell phones), no internet, no movies, etc. We can read, go for a walk, play a board game with our family, spend time alone – in other words, things we did 40 years ago. We do this for four Sundays while the pastor teaches on themes of simplicity, silence, solitude, and taking enough of a break from the “noise” in our lives to hear from God. He invites the congregation to participate in this yearly event, though I would estimate less than one third actually do. Some of the younger members seem almost panicked at the thought they would go without texting or social media for 24 hours.
Another great post, Ron! Keep writing…
Seriously. Start a blog. Your comments come close to having more informative DNA than my post in general. You’re like the post-graduate response to my stuff.
Either that, or I’ll have you on as a guest blogger after I get sure-footing in here.
I plan on starting one. I’m excited about starting one. I have ideas for blog posts. I’m also apprehensive about starting one due to my two-job schedule (plus an occasional third) I work so my wife can be a stay-at-home mom and raise our eight children. Well, six now. One is in college and the next oldest is heading for college this fall. Meanwhile, a voice in the back of my mind says, “You’ll never have the time. Just start one and see what happens.” Perpetual brain-drain exhaustion doesn’t lend itself to sustained creative endeavors. However, even as I write this I realize it’s a pretty lame excuse. I don’t want to live my life making excuses for things I’d really like to do. My own excuses are like smelling my own body odor instead of someone else’s – a little more tolerable, but it still stinks.