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Virtual solutions
What is the world coming to?

October 28, 2003
The Iranian

Standing on the platform so that the big man in front of me would be my rain shield, I had another glance at my watch... umm so much for leaving work early. It is typical really; the day you leave earlier you are bound to get home even later, thanks to today's life of luxury... train, planes and water buses. Nowadays everything seems to have come out of a James Bond movie. Apart from the fact that in an actual Bond movie you don't see people squatated (squashed and irritated!). I can now completely sympathise with the poor sardines in that little flat box.

Something is vibrating in my pocket and thank god it is not the fat guy who smells of cheap bear and chips. I have 5 text messages, 3 of which require my immediate presence at my PC. Had another look at my watch and completely gave up on ever getting home tonight.

There is a pregnant woman standing next to me that surprisingly is still standing even after all that pondering the others gave her while getting off. I thought to myself, what is the world coming to? I can see everyone is probably too busy noticing because 'us' -- Londoners with 'English etiquette' having rubbed on us -- are too busy to look up from our paper to notice that maybe some one else is in need of that seat. Oh well ...

I can see the headline, with a picture of David Blaine, looking not very happy. Who would be after 44 days of air and a number of serious assaults and all those eggs all around Tower Bridge. It is clear that Blaine went through a very deep, intense experience in that Perspex box. He took a trip more powerful than any drug could ever induce. Would any of us properly understand what he went through? How can we? We may have been able to watch him but we could not feel what he was feeling. How deeply any of us truly empathise with each other is a moot point.

We live in a world where every so often we wonder who listens when we talk? It is a strange thing really. This is a world full of people who never shut up, yet we are all constantly addressing an inattentive audience. Folk pretend to be interested in other folk. They make the right noises and go through the motions, but they never really hear each other because they are all too busy thinking about what they are going to say next. How many times have you tried to make a point to a person and only heard a very calculated reply which doesn't address your question at all? In this day and age things are so mechanical and yet it all seems too normal.

Oh here comes another text message just as was beginning to think totally disintegrated and lonely on this planet.

Having gone through the past few years of watching most of my close friends getting married, starting to have babies, and second kids, and moving house, and moving to other countries, I have now become immune to any surprises.

What is the world coming to? This is the world that SMS and MSN Messenger seem to be leading the era of communication. We don't see each other anymore or we don't have time to sit down for coffee and talk. Instead we chat online or reply to text messages and emails that are supposed to justify the fact that we are in touch.

Perhaps we are all too busy with life, our husbands and kids. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the virtual world is extended so that we don't actually live up the road from each other, but in another country or even another continent, but it all feels so close that the only thing that brings you back to the reality of where you are is when you want to reach out and hold someone's hand... but there isn't anything in reach.

What is the world coming to? We live in an instant, just-add-water, push-a-button, microwaveable-in-under-three-minutes, zap-the-remote-control-and-see-the-war-before-your-very-eyes kind of a world. Not everything about it is good. Too often, we lose our appreciation for essential natural processes that need to happen slowly. We look for ways to hurry them just as we look for ways to depersonalise the injustices that we can see yet cannot influence. We end up feeling remote. And we end up looking desperately for something to put us right back in touch with the nicest part of reality.

A friend of mine is going to Sweden on a date! Why did that not surprise me? Because everyone seems to have started to build these remote relationships, from Iran to North America and Scandinavia, nothing comes as a shock anymore. Is it so hard to find the guy/girl next door these days as the love of your life? Or just meet people you want to spend time with, the way people used to?

What is the world coming to? Some people keep strange pets. Spiders, snakes and large ferocious beasts. The rest of us may wonder what on earth they see in them, but then, hey... we could say the same about a lot of husbands.

Psychologists claim that all this just proves how subjective most emotional experiences are. They work, mainly, because we so badly want them to work. If we tried hard enough, we could probably persuade ourselves that even a stone loves us back. Could this be the reason for all this remoteness? Could this be why I see people around me try so hard to find someone who fits, no matter where in the world they may be?

We can fool ourselves with the notion that in this day and age distance is nothing, because you can have breakfast in Paris and dinner in New York. Isn't distance a problem anymore? If we can't get a relationship work here at home how is a long-distance one going to work? Or is this another one of those risks we seem so pleasantly accept in life?

What happened to the good old times when people walked to work or met someone for breakfast? When grocery shopping was simple and you could use it as an excuse to go for a walk instead of clicking a button and ordering your milk and toast online? What happened to friendships and the days we used to sit down for coffee in the afternoon and giggle away without realising it is getting dark?

I guess we all got sucked into a system. Into a river that flows.

In the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, a little boy punctured the illusion. He piped up in an innocent voice, "Look, he isn't wearing anything". There were gasps of horror from the crowd as they realised that what the kid said was true. But that was a fairy-tale. In reality, whenever anyone makes a similar observation, they are simply accused of being unpatriotic. Often too, they are persecuted for daring to swim against the tide. Perhaps it is that fear that got us all in the way we are.

Or perhaps, it is innovation, or maybe it is neither and I am just getting old and life is changing around me and I find it hard to cope with the speed of things. Perhaps I am looking for a solution to get out of the corporate world that I have been sucked into in the name of career and success which keeps me away from all the little things I want to do which has nothing to do with cars and microwaves and laptops and broadband.

I bet you if I look closely, or search on google I would probably find an advert that says:

"Welcome to Solutions R Us. Other emporiums are full from floor to ceiling with commodities to purchase. If you look around though you will notice that the building is empty. Our solutions are not just invisible, they are non-existent. That's because we don't believe in keeping stock because we have no off-the-shelf supplies. Nor are they tailor-made. The idea is that you walk in and hang around until inspiration strikes you. Then, you go away with a solution you have created all by yourself. Our success rate is 100 percent. Give us a try today."

What is the world coming to?

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