We have always been a society of observers. We take in information most frequently, efficiently, and primarily through sight.
We witnessed fire. The wheel. We witnessed the migration patterns of animals and the cultivation of agriculture.
When civilization rose we witnessed the advancements of science, mathematics, government, and art.
As our borders grew we witnessed great battles and advanced weaponry and tactics and the making of legends.
When we were comfortable we witnessed entertainment. We were there to watch the great tragedies and comedies. We witnessed mortality in the Coliseum. Drama at the Globe.
We have always been a society of observers. But somewhere along the line there was a shift, and we went from observers to capturers.
As we reached the pinnacle of observation technology we began to focus on the ability to capture what it was we were observing. We have telescopes powerful enough to observe the farthest reach of our galaxy and microscopes powerful enough to view in between the minute infinity in the space between atoms. But we wanted to capture these images, for posterity or study or vanity, so we worked also on the ability to freeze sight.
But now I feel people have forgotten how to observe and cherish. There was a time when beauty before our eyes was enough to bring us to our knees. It was a very intimate moment between object and observer. And we never really felt that we lacked the ability to portray it afterwards. We have our words, our stories, our drawings and pictures. We have always had the ability to share. Never once did I ever feel that I lacked the ability to observe and relay the great things I have seen.
But now people have forgotten how to appreciate the things in front of them. I cannot see the stage past the bright LED sea of cell phones. I cannot enjoy a meal without fussing over the placement of plating and the composition of light. Those I speak to have lost the words to portray what they’ve seen. Their minds have forgotten beauty because their devices have captured it for the lazy.
Being able to observe, being the one to see, was once a private and reserved pleasure and privilege. You felt empowered and special. It carried the responsibility of commitment and dedication to share with others. Now we are all consumers, capturers, but we do not know how to appreciate what it was or how to share it. We just post and share and tag and like but forget the subject.
Even more dangerous, in times when observation is not enough and participation must be warranted, we are now so occupied with the former that we often miss every call for the latter. How many videos are there of people being hurt versus stories of those who stepped in. How many more videos are there for people to consume of game and sport versus how many actual players.
I cannot believe sometimes how many viewers someone online playing a game can get when I cannot get enough people to fill a board game. I cannot believe how little people can tell me about the pictures and videos they have captured. Yes, the food looks incredible. But what did it smell like. Taste like. Feel like on the tongue. Did the dish shine and shimmer as you cut into it. Did you see the freshness in the fish, the richness of the meat. Did it crackle and crunch and slide and bounce when you cut into it. Did the flavors dance on your tongue with bright vibrant spices and seasonings. You were there! I was not. This is how our society grows. This is how we have conquered the world. Share with me. I don’t want your grainy video. I don’t want your shaky cam. I don’t want you to be satisfied with simply capturing.
I don’t want to witness the great and vast and beautiful infinite world through a five inch screen.