Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Thorough Ear Cleaning

I'll admit, I hadn't really noticed it until this week, but we are truly a stimulus-addicted society. Think about it, you can't go anywhere where there are people and find quiet -that is, quiet in the sense of at least trying not to make noise. You walk into a store, they're playing you music. Thinking about it now, it just seems weird to play music while you're grocery shopping (maybe it's just me). You're stuck in an elevator for, what, two seconds, and they play you music. You're put on hold and they play you music over the telephone. It seems that they try to catch you in a situation you can't escape and pump out noise at you.
But then, don't we do that to ourselves? We get in the car and turn on the radio. We go for a walk, or ride the bus, or even sit down to do homework and we "plug ourselves in" to an ipod or something. Some people turn on the television just to have the background noise. We've become a society that's scared of silence. Have you ever been in a situation with someone, and there's a lull in the conversation, during which neither of you say anything. Did you remember thinking, 'Gosh, this is awkward,"? It shouldn't be. I think this is one of the reasons why so many of us are in awe when we are in solitude in nature. There are still sound, to be sure, but not noise in the way our man-made society would have it. They're simply sounds of life, of living. Such sounds seem to be driven out of our everyday world.
This habit of "plugging ourselves in" or of letting others do it to us is contributing largely to the tendency toward isolation in our society today. People just don't talk to strangers anymore. There was a time, believe it or not when making friends wasn't just accepting someone onto you MySpace. You actually had to interact... in person. This would mean something along the lines of starting a conversation with the woman sitting next to you on the bus, or in the waiting room. This means more than making an unintelligible grunt at the man operating the cash register. It means making small talk about the weather with a perfect stranger whether you really care about it or not. (it seems we need a hurricane to get anyone to talk about the weather anymore) But this sort of interaction just isn't happening. You can't talk to the person next to you in the waiting room because they've got their ippod plugged into their ears and can't hear you anyway. You can no longer talk to the man at the cash register because, well, he's not there anymore and the whole gosh-darn thing is a U-scan. We're slowly becoming more and more introverted and taking out all human interaction in our everyday lives -that is, except for socializing with the select people whom we already know or cannot escape; ie, family. You technically don't even have to go to the grocery store anymore, but can just order your stuff online and have it delivered to your front door. Crazy huh?
And all this because we crave constant sensory stimuli and we want to obtain it passively. Conversation's just too much work. And talking to strangers? No way. Our idea of leaving our comfort zones is signing up for a plan that sends you random songs to test out on your ipod. Pathetic when you think about it, isn't it?

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