Friday, September 9, 2005

manufacturing comfort

Scribble the sky a pretty blue, add some puffy cotton ball clouds and a nice, yellow, construction paper sun. Everything you need. Some Magic Markers and double-sided tape. Safety scissors and a nontoxic, environmentally friendly, acid-free gluestick. An orderly and sterilised workspace. Take some Ritalin to keep you focused. Shhh, sit still now - there's homework to be done. I've put the television on in the other room to chase the silence away, slipped on your favourite CD, readied your game console in case you need a break. I'll be over at the Smith's if you need me. I'm number seven on your cell's speed dial.

From childhood, we're taught that our society is great, and one of the biggest reasons for this greatness is the fact that we have choice. "Did you know," asks one high school social studies teacher, "that in communist Germany we were only able to purchase one brand of toothpaste?" And the students all marvel at this, considering just how lucky they are to be able to choose from hundreds of varieties of toothpaste. "Yes," he continues, "one brand of toothpaste, one style of shoes, one type of soda." The horror! the students think, imagining only one type of soda - evil, evil communists! How lucky he is to have escaped the tyranny. He lives now in a place, in a time, of near infinite choice - a veritable ocean of choice, abyssal and dark. But as pretty, as serene, as the ocean can be from a distance, each day, thousands of children drown in those murky waters - and their imaginations are never found.

Just like the untempered printing of money can cause hyper-inflation, a severe devaluation, so it is that we have managed to devalue our entertainment through the propagation of unlimited choice. By November of 1923, Germany saw its mark hyper-inflated to the point where a single postage stamp cost 500 billion marks. Similarly, by September of 2005, we find our entertainment hyper-inflated to the point where we require 500 channels just to provide the slim chance of finding one decent program to watch. We need to watch 20 movies to find one that's all right - and we'll wait years to find one which really, truly, wows us. We'll read countless comics which never make us laugh. Go to a thousand concerts which only leave us searching for the next great thing. We’ll attend a million art exhibits which never inspire.

You can imagine what it must be to sit on a swing in the park, pushing off with your feet, hearing, feeling, the sand crunching beneath your sneaks. On your descent, you'd lean back, stretching your legs out to gain momentum. You'd raise your face to the warm sun, close your eyes, and let yourself fall knowing that you'll tuck in your legs and go right back up again. You can imagine this, but you can't possibly know what it feels like. When's the last time you actually sat on a swing? Beneath the vibrant blue sky, beneath those luxurious white clouds, beneath that bright, beautiful sun - go outside and play.

No comments:

Post a Comment