Screens

I was listening to the radio the other day (some show on NPR, I don’t remember which one). There was a little commentary by a reporter who has been reading iPad books to his son at night. He said it was cool because it is really interactive. His son can touch a part of the story and hear voices, or see moving pictures. He concluded his story by saying that this reading experience is much more interactive and engaging then when he would read to his son from a book. When he reads from a book his son just lays back and listens, when he reads from the iPad his son is involved and part of what is going on. He did not directly say it, but he implied that the iPad experience was better.

I have to confess I worry about this a bit. Why did we decide that the only measure of engagement is physical activity? If you saw my parents reading to my brother and I when we were young it would have looked very boring I am sure. There we were, on our beds with words going into our ears. But in my mind I was creating. I could see High King Peter leading the army of Narnia into battle, and I could hear Aslan’s song as he created a new world. And the next day we would play these stories out in the real world, and we would expand on them by being the characters, changing the plot, or even making up our own stories and characters. We were fully engaged in the story.

Don’t get me wrong. I think that there is a place for interactive reading and that it can be really good, but I hope that we don’t ever let that take the place of creating entire worlds in our imagination.

I have some uneasiness about all of the screens in my world.

Just tonight we went to see the stage version of Beauty and the Beast. We had seats on the first row of the balcony, so it is easy to look down and see everybody who is sitting on the floor. At intermission of course everybody got out there phones to do very important things. There was even a row of three or four people who got out their iPads to play games. It made me kind of sad to see rows of people who seemed to be there together look down instead of turning to each other. What opportunities were missed for the sake of checking email? Opportunities to talk about the art that was happening right in front of us? To learn about the person you came with, or to understand the story we were watching a little better? You might argue that they were making connections with people through their phone, which may be true (the lady playing Wheel of Fortune on her iPad was not connecting to anybody), but why are the connections on the little screen more interesting then the connections with the people you came to the show with?

I feel like some sort of anti-technology person writing this. I promise that is not the case. I spend more then my fair share of time in front of a computer both creating and consuming media, and as soon as my current cell phone contract runs out Ill probably buy some sort of fancy phone touch screen and all. But like many I worry about the lack of balance that is creeping into my life. I have to be intentional to not spend all my spare time reading blogs, catching up on news, and checking the good ol twitter feed. I wish is was the other way around. I wish I would read a book and forget to look at facebook.

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The Weight of Story

You may have noticed I think that stories are really interesting. I like hearing people talk about their lives, who they are, and where they come from. Sometimes though you are in a place that is heavy with somebodies story, even thought they not there. I have had the honor of visiting a few of them recently.

First was a small cemetery in the Smokey Mountains. It was an old cemetery, from the 1800s. When you walked in you could feel the weight of the people who had lived in those mountains and of the hard life they lived. There were a lot of graves that showed lives of only only a few years or even days. Somebody maintains the cemetery, im not sure who, perhaps it is just the park service for the benefit of tourists like us. In my mind thought this is a family cemetery and the decedents of the buried come back to cut the grass, put flowers on the graves, and set the headstones back up. This is sort of a sad thought to me in some ways, there is nothing alive there, the people have long ago returned to the earth. So, I am not sure I relate to the need and drive to maintain the land they were buried in. But, then the weight of the place comes back to me. Here is a place that stands in memory of normal people who did normal things and lived normal lives. Yet they are still remembered. And I can stand there, in a place where 200 years ago real life was happening, I don’t really know why, but that is important to me.

There is a bit of a problem with all of this though. The story that is told by that cemetery, and the whole of the Smokey Mountain park neglects a really important story of the people who were there first and were forced to leave. The weight of that story is not felt, but it should be….

…which leads to the second place I visited recently. The story of this place actually starts with the Trail of Tears, and the end is not in site. The signpost in this story that I visited is the Reconciliation Park in Tulsa. The park is in memory of the Tulsa Race Riots. I had heard about these riots of course, but never really knew the full story. If you get a chance to visit the park you should.