When young people roll their eyes at my old fart opinions of their technology, I am comforted by the thought that their love of these new shiny electronics will someday qualify them as old farts. I won’t be around to see it, but I know it will happen.
I grew up in a world of books, magazines, radio, black & white televisions, and movies that were shown in movie theaters. This was my invisible environment. It never occurred to me that there was anything modern about these forms of media. My home office is filled with books. I read every day. I willingly enter older, slower novels by Nabakov, Dickens, Hugo. I love Henry James for the very reason many find him unreadable, the texture of his language. The style of a writer is important to me, and the language is sometimes more important than the story. It is how it is told, not what it is about.
The same applies to movies. I love the deep and the abstract. I grew up unconsciously immersed in the classical language of cinema. I was open and receptive to action, stunts and special effects, but they were always connected to a story that was more concrete . When I see today’s special effect films, there is a solidity missing. There is nothing for my brain to hang on to. It’s all CGI. That’s why I naturally gravitate towards European cinema, where the classical language of storytelling still dominates.
I proudly admit that I am analog by training and long habit. I am not digital. Phonograph records seem logical to me. Now that I can obtain any music in an instant on the internet, the music is no longer as real as it used to be. When I owned a vinyl album, I possessed something tangible. When I download an album from iTunes, I can listen to it, but I possess nothing. When I enter a theater and see a movie, I experience it differently than when I watch a video. The instant availability of tens of thousands of movies diminishes them somehow in my mind. My nature remembers movies and connects them to a time and place in my life when I first watched them on the big screen. Seeing them in my living room removes that phenomenon. Movies used to be an event.
I do not make the mistake of believing my experience is better than those raised in digital immersion. Nor should they believe theirs is superior to mine. We are simply different. I have an older frame of reference. The fact is that my argument with modern technology is just a matter of my embedded nature. The thought of friends and loved ones spending hours playing a video game fills me with sadness. But then, most of those friends and loved ones probably wouldn’t relish the idea of reading Balzac’s Lost Illusions, which I have just finished. Some might be open to both. To those, I applaud you.
The culture of my childhood was superseded by the culture of my young adulthood. I can see both quite clearly, now that they have disappeared. Few people know that I adored listening to CBS Mystery Theater on the radio while laying in bed each night as a teenager. Few will understand why I consider radio drama more immersive than filmed drama. I’ve looked at Kindles and read text on them, but have no interest in ever buying one. It’s not a book. It doesn’t fall open to the page and sit on my lap.
I imagine many reading this has probably grown up in this new world. Graduating high school seniors, even college seniors, never knew a world without the internet and video games. Schools these days are more eager to teach programming skills than reading and writing. I understand this. I try to adapt.
But I’ll never truly accept it.