An i-Pad is a window to the world and so school boards find money (never available for music programs) to equip the children. An i-Pod opens a universe of sounds and sung stories and so our children walk around with wires drooping from their ears. A Smart-Phone offers instant and constant connection and so people of all ages walk unseeing through the streets hooked into their private (now made all-too-public) conversations. Our machines are marvelous manifestations of our deep needs and they are now with us 24/7, an extension of our curious minds, aesthetic desires, social needs.
But our eyes are also windows to the world and it just may be that wholly seeing the frost on the morning grass, the wild geese flocking overhead, the son and father playing catch is as interesting, important and stirring as the latest Youtube clip. Our ears are open to worlds of sounds, from the duck’s raucous laughter to the crickets evening chirp to the music of our own voice singing, preferably with others. Our hands can touch things other than plastic, can feel the rough bark of trees or smooth sanded curve of a chair leg or the fur of the dog or the skin of a loved one. Our nose can smell all the smells not available on-line— at least until they come up with the scratch-and-sniff computer. Our tongues can taste the burst of the honey-crisp apple, the explosion of contrast in the Miang Kum appetizer and the kiss that defies the “everything you want is on this machine” skewered logic.
And let’s not forget the way books, those remarkable bound technologies with spines, immerse us into other lives and thoughts not our own that become our own and shape who we are and might be. A journal with white pages and a pen or pencil is a marvelous storage unit to record our footprints as we walk this earth. And 88 keys on a piano would require lifetimes beyond count to wholly exhaust our sonic imaginations.
My gift to myself on New Year’s Day was to re-memorize some of the 42 poems I learned a couple of years back. What a joy to walk the streets reciting such eloquent language and feeling the freedom of having it available for me without a screen or even paper. Equally a pleasure to walk through the world singing songs stored in that memory system of neurons, axons and dendrites in the human brain, available to call forth as needed to soothe Zadie or connect a group of people or simply give me some sonic pleasure. Fine to have all these technologies to learn, document, store, share, pass on to others, but let’s not forget the true freedom of the treasures close at hand—mind, body and heart.
And so off I go on my bike (ah, there’s a technology) in company with Shakespeare, Dickinson, Frost, Hopkins, Housman, Yeats and Mary Oliver, with a glistening sunny day to lift my heart higher, careening down hills and chugging up them, the sounds of seagulls, the sparkle of the sea and the miracle of life’s treasures close at hand. Alive. Alert. Free.