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So, I just got a box…
I happened to go and grab my new couch with my buddy Bob from the local IKEA (those little room tableaus are so cool I sometimes want to do just what my friend Andrew remarked on years ago and live in one). As many an item one gets from the Swiss furniture retailer, what I bought came in a great big box. And while I greatly appreciate being able to angle and lift a self-contained piece of furniture through the doors of the moderately sized Tudor I live in, and Bob has a great eye when it comes to putting stuff together, I did come to regard that empty box as much as the quickly put-together couch with a sense of fascination.
Long before the days of scheduled playdates and kids more fascinated with logging-on to their tablets then getting out to play, there was a time when a box like the one that housed my new IKEA couch would have been the center-piece of a few weeks, if not a full month, of play. I can recall the summer my buddy Tom’s grandfather came to dig-out a portion of Tom’s parent’s backyard for the family-room the old man was going to build. We played in and around that pit for weeks, it was ‘the’ thing happening on our block that summer with each progression of the room’s building giving us a different surface to cavort across or newly leftover materials to use in a myriad of ways.
The simplest of objects or spaces back then-a big cardboard box, the inner skeleton frames of the new library being built, a cardboard tube-would set us off on adventures even a Hollywood scenarist couldn’t screw-up. We used whatever we had on hand, not because our parents didn’t buy us those bendable Colorform Aliens, plastic replica machine guns or models, but because we were as fascinated by what we could make from something not a toy, as we were with playing with our toys.
Yes, once again I pine for the old days. But, here’s what I have been thinking of late (and it scares me witless)…
When a society comes to the point that the method of delivery of a product, service, communication becomes more important, sexy and ubiquitous then the product, service or communication then that society might just be damn well doomed. I believe we are truly in that state-of-decline now, as Facebook and our portable computer-ing devices are ever more infinitely interesting to us than the people we are ‘friends’ with or the Hollywood blockbusters we can view on our freaking cell phones for Christ’s sakes! It is less a “well, back in my day things were better because they were simpler” as it is that there is no delight in jumping into a box with some friends and pretending it’s your spaceship because it won’t actually deliver the digital interaction (in this case fly) in the way the simplest iPad will simulate flight. We are all too used to being enamored with/of our machines (or standing in line to get the new one), debating whether Bose or Beats earphones are better, bragging about how many Twitter followers we have that we simply don’t see that the method of delivery of the ‘thing’ has superseded the thing to the point where the thing doesn’t much matter anymore.
Allow me a digression to make this point even clearer.
As is my want and circumstance, I usually arrive at an appointment earlier than planned. I’ll enviably find myself sitting or standing around for a few moments before my companion arrives and am usually waiting with my nose deep in a book. If not reading I people watch. I let my mind wander. I do not do a damn thing save enjoy the sunlight on my adorable kisser. Archaic? Maybe. But I dig the Chaucerian pastime (look deep my little literary minions to find why I name dropped the great writer of the “C. Tale’s” right then) of just hangin’. But these days, because mainly 100% of peeps are so rigidly locked to their cells (the method of delivery of the ‘thing’ has superseded the thing) when one (me in this case) sits quietly at a table or stands holding up a wall outside a Starbucks just staring into space, one is constantly stared at in turn because in this day and age who the hell simply stands or sits somewhere empty handed, looking about, catching rays without their cell phone at least perched nearby or at least reading the daily paper?!
Get my point?
Whether we be playing with a plastic ball, in a box or simply watching a concert live without viewing the performance from our cell phone held aloft the entire show, these activities are simply not as interesting to the huddled modern masses as the stuff that makes, records or gives us access to our stuff. (How many people do you know snap a selfie in front of some natural wonder or historical site, then simply move on, as if the snapping of a selfie is what matters more than where they find themselves at?…and kudos to Disney for outlawing selfie ‘sticks’, they be getting’ all medieval Goofy on your ass!) And while I am truly sad for a generation who has no idea that texting in a movie is rude or that what is supposedly vetted across Snopes.com might still not be accurate, I fear more for their imaginations, the very one thing I feel as unique to us all as our fingerprints. (What good would I be to what I do for my daily bread if I couldn’t dream, ponder and create out of whole cloth the stories I do?)
Well, at least I got my box, I turn off my cell phone when I go to sleep and I have no desire to binge watch. And my imagination’s intact, thank you very much.
But then again, I’m an old man.