Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Record Club of America meets Facebook

2/18, PDX!

Back before the last ice age, back when Jean and I were living in Turkey during my USAF enlistment, we were members of Record Club of America (RCOA) for a time. It was around the peak time of popular music's golden age. All kinds of new work being done. Innovative, creative, but not over-produced and categorized by the big record labels. Not yet. All thanks to the pressures of the Vietnam War era, the cross-fertilization of many creative talents and styles, and the Japanese production of all kinds of high quality stereo system components.

GI's serving overseas could buy stereo gear that ran on 110 or 220-volt AC of either 50 or 60 Hz at very reasonable prices. A bit heavy by today's standards due to transistors instead of the current microchips, but able to produce great sound and audio frequency response.

One way to buy the latest music at more reasonable prices was to join RCOA. Jean and I did for a time. New catalogs came out regularly with special deals. Pick-of-the-month records were automatically mailed according to your tastes: rock, folk, country, soul, blues, Motown, jazz.
I thought I could keep up, have all the latest stuff, that somehow a couple of years down the road I'd have this really neat and complete record collection. How utterly, bloody naive! No way on God's planet to keep up. The free market will always run ahead of insatiable demand with unlimited abundance. We soon dropped RCOA and only grudingly added a new record here and there. We already had more music to enjoy than we had time for. More was available than we had money for.

Yesterday, NPR had a great program discussing Facebook. Most people missed it because they were too busy Facebooking...

Yep. You can now drag every person you've ever known around with you, along with all you ever did, for an eternity that will outlast our galaxy. Forget immortality. Digital photography now enables every millisecond of your life to be eternally pixellated and blasted into cyberspace at the speed of light. I know parents who have, I swear, documented their child's entire life on her blog and probably a Facebook interface. Probably 800,000 words written, 1000 pictures posted. Videos with sound already posted in perpetuity about their child who before the little tyke is even a year old.

But can they keep up?

Can anybody keep up with keeping up with everybody they ever knew and didn't? Obviously they assume so. I know some great 20-something's who are all wired and facebooked like an overbooked Jet Blue flight. They think they can keep up. They don't have children yet. I want to caution, "Don't get too addicted to constant interruptions and over-networking, to being universally availalbe 24/7/356. The downer will kill you and your eventual kids."

Children had already perfected the art of shredding adults' time schedules and routines before this frenetic sound-bite, over-interlinked, warp-drive world we are entering. Don't get too addicted, y'all! Don't get your sense of time and availability too whacked by all this. Otherwise, the withdrawal will be absolute hell to go through. Or else it will tremendously short-change the adult-child time your children absolutely require of you, which no one else can give them, which can never be recovered if passed over because we were too busy texting, cell-phoning, blackberrying, and Facebooking to notice.

Get ready for attention spans measured in nanoseconds, deep reflection on deep matters measured only in the millionths of a millimeter, abandonment of "human relationships" as a concept.

Kathryn Jakobson Ramin, in her wonderful book about the mind titled Carved In Sand, reminds us, or redsicovers for us, that the human brain and our identity as we have known it is not built to take the deluge of information and images endlessly hurled at it every day. We need a certain amount of deep sleep to purge and clean our mental houses, to do repair work in our brains.

In the same way, our lives need to purge and clean house, too. There's too much of the past to not let much of it go.

Hang up and drive. Book off and live. Pay attention to your kids and the earth on which you live. Know the people you know now, and know them deeply. Knowing is not the same as interfacing.

Human civilization never got to be civilization by being cut into ever-shorter strands of spaghetti that were instantly sent to every household and blue tooth in the universe.

As Joni Mitchell sang years ago in that musical golden age, "You sure do miss the silence when it's gone."

Be careful, modern world. You think you can keep up. I ain't so sure.


Pastor Roger

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