Came across this photo today and it broke my heart. Not that I’m surprised to see such things. Heck, I’ve witnessed it with my own eyes countless times – hordes of young people seeing the entirety of their world through a tiny manufactured screen. For them, if it doesn’t come from that little piece of electronic plastic, it doesn’t actually exist – themselves included. So, they might come upon something beautiful and wondrous and not even see it beyond the brief moment where they hold out the camera phone to take a photo to upload onto their social media platforms and then they move on, that beautiful and wondrous thing already forgotten.
And each time, their real lives, their real experiences, become smaller and smaller, just like that electronic device they are holding onto for dear life.
I just completed a chapter in my upcoming novel, Murder on Matia, where the protagonist Adele reads the introductory passage from Decklan Stone’s book, Manitoba to a very sick young girl confined to a bed where for her the only remaining glimpses of the world will be through a single window. It was a scene I intended to have readers take both literally, and figuratively.
Here is an excerpt from that moment in the story:
Adele opened the cover and lightly ran her fingers across the age-yellowed pages. She looked down and once again heard Decklan’s words that first spoke to her years ago from across the chasm of time gone and experience gained. Adele glanced up at Isabel, smiled, and recited the book’s introduction, which she knew by memory, out loud.
“My hatred did not come naturally to me. I wasn’t born into such a state. Rather, it was taught to me by all those who doubted, and all those who pretended to care. So, there it was. The hate that divided became our greatest bond. The thing we knew best and certainly far more than we knew ourselves. Hate had become my single greatest love, the only thing I could count on to never disappoint me as all the others inevitably would. I breathed its air. I wore its clothes. And when I looked into the mirror, it was hate happily staring back. And that was OK. That was fine. That was my life, such as it was. We were all alone together, those too-many voices, the collective din, screaming in silence. Then came that unexpected trip to the place where it truly is darkest before the light. A journey of revelation and revolution from which everything I thought had been, never was, never could, and never would be, again. Manitoba.”
I just finished that part of the story yesterday and then came across the above image today. The similar context represented by both struck me like a hard jab to the face.
All this technology was sold as a means of bringing the world together, but I don’t know about all that. Are we really more alive, more together, and more connected, or are we actually all alone together, those too-many voices, the collective din, screaming in silence?
Learn more about the character of Adele and the San Juan Islands Mystery series HERE
D.W. Ulsterman is a bestselling, award-winning author and socio-political commentator.
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