Our relationship to the material world has shifted in this modern world we live in. I think back to my childhood. We had shelving specially made to house CDs. “Towers” we would call them. And they held dozens, if not a hundred, different CDs. Similar towers would be fashioned to hold collections of DVDs as well. No doubt, there was yet another apparatus in the past that held our VHS collection.
It has been a long time since I’ve seen one of these CD or DVD towers in someone’s home. Thinking about it myself, and why I don’t have one, the obvious answer was that I could get anything I wanted “on demand”. There is no need to hoard the physical when the internet provides the means to access all of human knowledge on demand. I could listen to any song, watch any movie, whenever the mood strikes, just by accessing the internet.
Is it that our relationship to our “favorites” has changed? Do we no longer have those movies that we go back to, over and over again? Or that album that we’d listen to on repeat, lying on the floor of our room while we journaled or read or just thought about whatever love affair was currently weighing on our minds as the sweet sounds of our favorite artist filled the air?
Thumbing through a box of DVDs, I knew that there was still a heartfelt connection between myself and the movies that shaped me. Certain ones called to me, movies I had watched again and again. I could recite many of their lines, recall the main characters in vivid detail as if I had just conversed with them the day before, quote the wittiest jokes of the film word for word. The esthetic value, the memory of what was contained on the DVD, what the film had meant to me at one point and what my current relationship to it is — all of that still mattered. Yet, without the visual reference, I had all but forgotten many of these titles.
I wondered for a moment if the vast quantities of stuff that we now have in our lives is what made holding onto — actually owning — DVDs and CDs less necessary. That somehow, we were oversaturated with information and with options — hundreds of new movies to watch, thousands of new songs every year — that we didn’t bother to re-watch certain films; we no longer bother to listen to an artist’s album in entirety. There’s just so much else to choose from. But the raw emotion I felt as I looked through titles of movies I had once loved convinced me otherwise. Even in this day, with the amount of choice that I have available at my fingertips, I still felt connection. I still favored some titles over others, some melodies over others.
But will those who grow up in this on demand world feel the same?
And what is it saying about us, that we do not hold on to those things we find important, but rather toss away their physicalness with blind faith that we can find it again whenever we so desire?
And what is it saying about us, that we do not hold on to those things we find important, but rather toss away their physicalness with blind faith that we can find it again whenever we so desire? What books do we not have in paperback or hardcover, because if we ever desire to read it again we can buy it off Amazon or download it digitally? Is this blind faith that we are practicing? If these titles and melodies and words mean something to us, something that we find important and that we’d feel slightly less complete without, aren’t they worth holding onto? How have we gotten to this point where our faith in some other keeping these things, so that we may come and pluck them from their weary hands whenever we have the desire, will always be there, ready and waiting to be needed?
I think of Fahrenheit 451 and the burning of books. I think of my Kindle, and how difficult it is to find old books in the correct format (unless, of course, they are deemed “classics” by some other). I think of dusty old records and that vibrating you can feel in the air, something headphones and digital music could just never replicate.
What are we losing, by way of convenience? What could we lose, never again to smell or hear or watch or feel, because we had so much faith that someone else was protecting it?