How will the early 21st century be remembered? The digitally preoccupied may say, “as a communications age”. Well, I wonder if that’s the true experience of many. Or are we – increasingly – speaking into the vacancy of cyberspace? Surely nothing will (or could ever) replace the sort of communication that takes place between people face to face; it is such a crucial part of what makes us human.
This is why I long for a world where small, shimmering screens are not viewed as substitutes for open-hearted conversation, lively debate, friendly exchange of useful information, and the sort of kind, attentive listening that relies as much on the face and body language of another as on the words spoken or written. (And, yes, I do understand the irony that I am writing this blog on a small, shimmering screen.)
I wrestled with this dilemma some years ago in the two poems that follow. Here is the first, with the second to follow soon.
Microchips track criminals,
And wires along the line explain
Why with the wrong kind of leaves, or rain
The trains are stalled.
Sharp missives dart through outer space
Between pedestrian earth and bold sky walkers,
Between Whitehall, White House and heedless talkers
In benighted cyberspace.
Laser beacons bounce bright beams, fiercer far
Than any lost Napoleonic flames,
While satellites dish up news like microwaved
Hot meals—burning, instant—of some exploding war.
Yet still I dream an age when we shall chart
Thick distance from the head to heart.
© Lizzie Ballagher