Friday, August 10, 2012

Walden: now on X-Box and PS3

A TPN:BOW Repost, showing that I was getting my curmudgeon on 4 whole years ago! --s
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

–Henry David Thoreau, from his book Walden, 1854
Quite honestly, I believed the line “quiet desperation” came from this source below. I still think most average English-speaking people of a certain age do as well:

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time

Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

Hanging on in quiet desperation in the English way

The time is gone, the song is over

Thought I’d something more to say

–Roger Waters, from “Time,” by Pink Floyd, 1973
Either way, the aphorism doesn’t apply anymore. Here’s why:

[Quite a while ago, apparently], as my bandmates and I tried like hell to load out of a rehearsal space to make room for the next booked band, the conversation took a philosophical turn. Not the best way to turn a conversation when you’re in a hurry, but that’s the way things go.

We were all being somewhat affected by the changes and vicissitudes of the middle years. We were tallying up various minor maladies we were suffering, recounting the ill fortunes that have befallen the friends and family of all the members of late.

Glen, the quiet, reserved rhythm guitarist, asked, perhaps not all that rhetorically, if this is what the future held for all of us—a series of increasingly unhappy tidings, the eventual closing of life’s doors of opportunity until only one remains.

David, the talented lead singer, brought up the “Quiet Desperation” quote. We all agreed.

Then I thought about it for a bit. We had all just finished damaging our hearing for three solid hours with rock.

What do people in America do to inject some distraction and excitement into their empty lives? They do something cacophanous. This is becoming the Age of Noisy.

• Movies are LOUDER than ever. Almost all multiplexes are equipped with three-thousand-watt, DTS-SDDS-Dolby Digital compatible auditoriums. The average IMAX theater is equipped with 10,000 watts of audio power.

• TV is LOUDER than ever. The HDTV broadcast standard includes 5.1 surround sound.

• Video Games are LOUDER than ever. The gentle “beep-boop” of Colecovision has long yielded to game fare like HALO in its fully 5.1 surround sound capable, subwoofer-shredding glory.

• The Internet is LOUDER than ever. Try to enjoy surfing the web sans computer speakers sometime. [actually, the advent of phone apps may have quieted things down in this area a little-- but not much.]

• The friggin’ WORLD is louder than ever. In my neighborhood, there is a 1:1 correlation between people who rent their dwellings and people who own LOUD gas-powered things. (Noticed I said “people who rent:” People in my area who OWN their dwellings are either too busy working to pay mortgages or too old to be into new-fangled whiz-bangs.) Big shiny motorcycles, just like "American Chopper:" They run them up and down the streets most weekends, not really having anywhere useful to go. They also own those little gas-powered razor scooters, hot-rodded cars, gas-powered RC cars, etc. etc. The outstanding neighborhood annoyance is a guy with a LOUD Harley-compatible bike equipped with a fairing—into which he installed a stereo. So the entire block gets to hear him rev his bike, turn up his now drowned-out stereo, rev his bike again, re-adjust his stereo, and so on and so on. It’s the most foolish thing on two wheels I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to the circus.

How are we, the citizens of consumer-culture Western society, personally reacting when faced with a quiet moment? Do we take stock, accept the silence as an introspective moment of Eternity visited to our hectic existences? Or do we drown that mother out?

Admittedly, some people do accept and even seek out quiet and solitude, and use this stillness to enrich their soul and accept their place in the Universe. But not enough, not nearly enough– and our own technology has made it far too easy to turn to entertainment to fill the void. Could Walden have been written if Thoreau had DirectTV?
The mass of men lead lives of noisy desperation.

–Skot C.

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