Friday, January 7, 2011

The Countless Worlds

Have you ever noticed, even though we are walking on the same plain and breathing the same air, we actually are in different worlds? I am not talking about social castes: those are old, debatably integrated. I am not talking about the Matrix or the fourth dimension: I know nothing about them. The pig Wilbur’s world is the barn, the little girl, his life, and the web of Charlotte – I am talking about this kind of world. Maybe.

Whenever I walk among a stream of people, I would see about one third of them using MP3’s, one third talking on cellphones, one sixth worrying about life issues, and the rest having some combination of the three. I can’t help but feeling so distinctively that there are walls around and among them, wrapping each individual so neatly and wittily, yet quite strong and noise/vision/sense-proved so that no one can really tell if there are people around them. They walk so closely, may even touch each other, yet they are not to be concerned even the slightest: a touch has become as irrelevant as a leaf falling in a forest. 

The last time I went back to MT to visit, there were so many things going on and the time was joyful. However, what I would remember the clearest is that my brother Holden was texting his friend Daniel and giggling the entire time. Hey bro, you too have gone to your own world and left this dusty old brother of yours behind too far!

When I started writing this post (about two weeks ago), my Vietnamese mother and I were staying in her friend’s house in CA for several days. The friend and his wife were out, and only their daughter was home with us. Because of the structure of the house, whatever one did could be heard by others, so I was aware that my mother was talking to my brother in Vietnam, and the girl was chatting with her boyfriend on phone also. There were three people in the house, and two of them were conversing with the people who were not there, and the third person (me) was posting a blog to be read later by another set of people!

What do you think about all of these? I believe that we are misusing what we are blessed with. Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell, when they first succeeded in inventing the first recorder and telephone, would hope to get people more connected – to be closer to one another. And how do we do it? We use the very same technologies to push others away from our individual worlds. We are to think of our acquaintances who are NOT around and neglect the very people standing right in front of us. What is the point of being physically together anymore? My guess is, there might be the day that everyone would avoid being with anyone – totally alone – with the sole purpose of being “connected”; and the only way to get to know someone better is to be away from that person: the notion of getting closer via avoidance. What kind of notion is that?    

After moving in my current apartment for more than a week without knowing anyone, I decided to knock the door right next to mine. ”Yeah?” -  A guy came out, looking at me in a totally unfriendly way. “Excuse me, I want to ask you something. Are you busy?” – I asked. “I am on the phone.” “Oh, okay. Never mind then.”

If there were only three worlds it’d be great.

1 comment:

  1. I am really blown away with you thought processes sometimes. Also, I like the attempt to meet your neighber. Next time, maybe you should take a gift, like beer or dessert...