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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Window to Paris

The universe of ideas is changing radically, and folks are rather proud of it. All knowledge is now becoming available at our fingertips, pulled from the air by a little box the size of our palm. It is a window to the world. And still, some folks are not impressed, wanting to write letters with ink and paper and not with keystrokes, and talk to people personally rather than as a virtual image of someone we would like to be. But of course, as they sample the new manner of doing things they will change their ways. New ways have a way of seducing the unconverted. But still, many resist. Regardless, succeeding generations will know of no other life but the way of the multi tasker, and this genteel single tasking world will die out. But there is a price to pay. To take it all in one must be able to cut it all down to size. Attention demands it. We must grab as much of the world as we can, but to cope with this avalanche of possibilities it must be distilled into sound bites and chopped into little events that can be pondered in all their significance for the next fifteen minutes until the next wonder arrives. And as we multi-task into oblivion, the world becomes a tyranny of the trivial, a patchwork of tinier and tinier things to do, to be, and to understand.

But this has been seen before. In the 1995 Russian comedy "A Window to Paris", an impoverished Russian discovers in an abandoned room a portal to Paris. Walking through the door, he found himself in the city of lights. And so Russians being Russians, they poured through the door, marveled at the bounty of the city, and began to cart it off. From cars to caviar, the booty was hoisted, tugged, and pulled through the door. The world was available at their fingertips, so they grabbed it one little piece at a time. But even this fantasy had its intellectual Luddites who would long for a earlier and less frenzied era. Looking through the glass at an elegant couple talking over dinner, a Russian expatriate turned to his friend. "Look at them. They are dining in an elegant room with champagne and violins, and have nothing more to say than stale conversation about hair style and office politics, and for our part we would sit at a card table in a cold empty closet with nothing more than a bottle of vodka and a pickle, and explored with the leisure of our imagination the infinite possibilities of the universe."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I saw that movie some years ago in Spain and I really liked it.