I was in grammar school when my parents got a TV. It provided an added dimension to life.
But we never watched it except in the evenings. We had a life that included so many other things.
As children, we played with whatever was available around us. Sticks, leaves, sand piles, mud puddles, flowers. We swang in swings or tires hitched to a tree with ropes.
We took walks, rode bikes, skated, jumped rope, tossed balls back and forth, and other simple things. We talked to each other about life.
We were seldom bored.
We learned to use our imagination to fill in any blanks. We saw the world around us, but we also saw the endless worlds inside each other’s heads. We made up stories and became whoever we wanted to be … until our parents called us to supper.
We read books. We wrote stories ourselves and shared them with each other.
We had family activities, such as card games or board games. We played checkers. We told jokes. We laughed.
We looked at old pictures. We learned about those who had died before we were born. Their legacy was planted inside us.
We wrote letters on paper and mailed them to each other. We experienced the joy of receiving letters and cards we could hold in our hands, knowing the one who sent them had actually touched them.
We were connected to each other and the real world.
In present day time, I enjoy seeing our toddler grandson explore the world. Every part of it is a fascination to him. He sees, he hears, he touches, he tastes. He freely expresses his feelings. He looks at us and smiles. We are connected.
In 2021, we say we are connected, but many of us are not. We are addicted to our distractions. Faced with the challenges of outside stimulation being reduced due to the pandemic, we are bored. We feel isolated. We have an internal restlessness.
We turn to our computers and our TVs, trying desperately to self soothe. Many cannot make it five minutes without picking up their cell phones.
And it is only now that we have begun to realize just how much we took for granted before the world turned into isolation wards.
We had become accustomed to parallel living. We were in each other’s physical space, but not really connected on any other level.
We were content to wave at neighbors or have the most superficial of conversations, but we had no idea what was going on behind the walls.
We passed each other in public spaces with not even a nod.
We even sat in church pews next to each other hearing about a future life we would share, but made no effort to know each other now.
How did we become such a generation of super-connected, disconnected people? As with all things, it was gradual. And the more people learned how to artificially connect, the more they forgot how to genuinely connect.
Now new generations are being raised in the synthetic age and will have never known any other worlds.
In the world as it is now, we fear the sounds of silence. Simon and Garfunkel gave us a solemn picture of the days of the sounds of silence.
Instead of reaching for any distraction, perhaps we should go back to the ways we used to be entertained … the ways we used to connect … and teach those ways to to our children.