Pupils, I’d like to address you frankly today. And by pupils, naturally, I mean the expanding and contracting portion of your iris that permits light and thus facilitates your sense of sight.
Warning: all is not what it seems. Remember the saying, “There’s more to it than meets the eye?” It urged us to look further, to explore someone or something on a deeper level because there is almost certainly more to discover beyond what you first perceive with your own two eyes. But now, I would argue the reverse is true—that what meets the eye may be more than what is real.
I regret that many of you will stop reading, thinking you’ve mistakenly stumbled onto the philosophy column. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Or can it?
I know, pupils, that you recently went into a big box store and had to meander through the television aisle in order to get to the roaster chickens. And that what you saw there was mesmerizing, fascinating—one flat screen displayed glorious gardens with emerald lawns and brilliant sunflowers; another featured a starry midnight sky streaked with meteor flashes; the next hurled you on a helicopter ride along a jagged, volcanic coastline cutting into a glassy teal sea. You had to stop and stare. Everyone else got a roaster chicken, but you were stalled in a catatonic state watching extreme close-ups of honeybee hive activities on a 65-inch OLED flat screen TV.
Briefly, you might have wondered if you needed to purchase a new TV, because you’d never seen the world so lush, so richly detailed, so stunning.
And that’s the problem. The world is not so lush, so richly detailed, so stunning. It’s just that technology has improved upon what we see—to the point where what we capture with our own two eyes now pales in comparison with what a flat screen can show us.
Please enjoy this real-world example from my personal life on Planet Janet. I received a new smartphone for Christmas, and the photos it takes have given me the mistaken impression that I am a gifted photographer. I am not a photographer, and the jury is still out on whether I am gifted in any manner whatsoever. I am fairly certain that I am just a person with an advanced smartphone camera that can make the world around me look fabulous.
Most mornings, I take my little dog for a walk on the beach. Most mornings, I stop on the boardwalk approach and marvel at the sunrise—and one day I stood there transfixed at the light streaming through the clouds onto the water. I strung my dog’s leash on the handrail and took my smartphone out of my sweatshirt pocket and snapped the photo you can see on my website (www.janetfrickecombs.com/columns). I think this photograph is better than what I saw in that moment, at 7:07 AM on a Tuesday morning. And at the risk of straying into a philosophy column, I’m not sure this is a good thing.
You see, I’ve seen children in strollers and highchairs, staring at tablets and phones and devices instead of the perfectly boring scenery of real life that passes them by on their sidewalk journey or surrounds them at their kitchen table. A panting, drooling dog. The crusty mosaic of bark on an ancient pine tree. Grandma humming show tunes.
Additionally, boring old regular life has sounds and smells and tastes and touches that cannot be replicated on a screen. Wouldn’t it be wise to experience these things first, before they appear—well—flat—in comparison to what technology can showcase?
And that’s this month’s philosophy column; I’m proud you persevered. Now, go outside and experience the incredible beauty of our ordinary world and share your smartphone photographs with me, so I can put them on my website and take credit for them.