Sunday, January 17, 2010

Why is the unexpected any kind of surprise anymore?

We live now in a vicarious age, but we don't live our lives through other people. Instead, we live our own lives vicariously through what our technology creates. It brings us community by allowing us to gather together, without really moving, in a virtual space far from the reality of events, and the more sophisticated the technology, the farther that distance, until we find ourselves with several personal realities from which to choose. We live our lives through things, not in them. We invest ourselves in our artificial realities rather than involve ourselves with the actual one, which is boring and slow and not as efficient. It becomes easy then to categorize the events that happen, to compartmentalize them within the parameters of our created realities — Republican and Democrat, red and blue, liberal and conservative, urban and rural — so that they make some sort of sense. The technologies that are now at our fingertips promise a reality as efficient and logical as they are. They represent us in those realities, and we live vicariously through our little machines.
So why are we surprised by surprises? Because even the shocking is supposed to be predictable now. We carry computers now in our pockets and in our purses and on the dashboard of the car. Because at those moments when the towers fall or the city drowns or a balloon goes up, there is a long moment before we're able to work the actual events into the realities we have created for ourselves. That is what passes for surprise these days — that long moment of hesitation when the real world cracks through again, those first few hours before we have had a chance to remove ourselves again through our technologies to that distant place within which they bring us together, the places we can go without ever moving at all. Things are real again, and then gone.
- Charles Pierce, Esquire, January 2010

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