Because education will be a main theme on this site, I want to begin with a connection to the opening quote on the home page. My return to formal education, brought me to Professor Catherine Turner’s English class where she introduced us to the work of such perceptive writers as Annie Dillard and Scott Russell Sanders. Reading Dillard’s essay “Sight into Insight” and Sander’s essay “Listening to Owls” taught me new ways to observe and listen. As Dillard observes in her essay “The secret of seeing, then, is a pearl of great price.” Sanders concludes his essay with the thought: “We can’t hear the earth sing above all the racket our species makes. Listening to owls is a remedy for such deafness.” Sitting on my front porch serenaded by the owls, I realized how important it is to be open to new ways of seeing, and hope that this new-to-me medium will open a dialogue into insights on reading and education.∞
My Three Rules for Living:
- Pay Attention
- Be Kind
- Don’t be an Asshole
Not long ago I walked out of a Target Store and as I stepped out from under the overhang I saw a vibrant rainbow arching over the expansive parking lot. Excitedly I looked around to exclaim at its beauty until I noticed that not one of the at least two dozen people in front of the store had seen it. Even though some shoppers were facing east towards this spectacular exhibit in the sky, every one of them was looking down at a cell phone-maybe at a video of a rainbow!
My first thought was to point the colorful hues out to them, but I got the sense that they wouldn’t care to be distracted from the important business of texting or playing games on their electronic devices. As I watched the people coming and going from the parking lot and the other stores next to Target, I was amazed that not even the kids walking with their parents paused to look up at the very predominant colors framing the parking lot.
I stopped on the way to my car to wonder in part at the unmistakable sight of the rainbow, but more to continue to watch and wonder how it was possible that not one other person noticed it. Finally as I put my bags in the car and got out my own cell phone to take a picture, a woman in a car near mine asked me if I saw the rainbow. I didn’t see who spoke but was so happy to have another person notice the rainbow that I could have hugged her just as an expression of a shared humanity in wondering.
Had a Unicorn with a horn appeared from pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no doubt no one would have noticed that either, even if the Unicorn prodded unobserving people in the ass with its Unicorn horn. The response probably would have been to complain of being disturbed from the important task of “selfing” or texting LOL to a BFF. WTF Asshole, wake up and smell the Unicorn!
This got me thinking about an incident that occurred recently at the University of Florida when a male frat boy taunted a black female pedestrian with slurs of a racial and sexual nature. His behavior was inexcusable and that he felt entitled to treat this woman in this way is a sad statement of the entitled culture to which he appears to belong. What got me thinking, though, was my experience with the rainbow because, though unfortunately I’m not surprised at his ignorance and his appalling treatment of the woman, I was completely amazed by the fact that he noticed anything at all. Based on my observations of the people of the rainbow, I know that very few people will bother to lift their head enough to take their eyes off of whatever device has them in a trance. Surrounded as this boy most likely is by like-minded, or maybe more to the point, non-minded people, it is a wonder that he or any of his frat-boy brothers’ can function in society in which looking beyond a cell phone or thinking is possible. The rainbows and unicorns and women of color, or not of color that are part of a larger picture don’t have to exist in the small world picture created by technology. Just don’t “Friend” it or “Google” it and change the definition on Wikipedia. With every thought and idea compressed into a tiny screen the world of this boy and so many others will continue to shrink. Who knows, maybe this is the start of a new evolutionary process by which those of our species who are so absorbed in technological devices may themselves become as small and limited as the technology they need to survive. What will these cell-phone-size-brain people do when confronted with the inevitable “Fatal Error!”? Like lemmings they’ll probably follow one another into oblivion, but I’ll be oblivious because I’ll be looking at the rainbow and waiting for the Unicorn.
Corny? You bet. But paying attention has its rewards.