With modern technology and the increased use of the Internet, smart phones and social media, one would think that we are becoming more connected. It’s true, we can communicate with loved ones and strangers all over the globe. Yet, what about the person sitting right beside us? The art of face to face communication seems lost. In the past few years of teaching at a university in Korea, I’ve noted more and more socially awkward students. They won’t participate in groups or chat with anyone – either peers or teachers. Their eyes are glazed over, glued to the screens of their phones. Oftentimes, their ears are plugged up with headphones. They are aloof, withdrawn, and shut themselves out of their surroundings. I feel that these students would be more outgoing, more socially secure if it weren’t so acceptable to tune out and get lost in a 4 inch screen. And why is it that these tiny screens are more interesting than the fascinating world around us??
I’d rather they be getting lost in a book. I recently asked students from each of my classes if they enjoy reading for pleasure. Out of literally hundreds of students, only a mere handful raised their hands. I was shocked. Now, I’m not too much older than my students. I turned 30 this year; most of my students are 20-25 years old. However, there seems to be a large difference between folks born in the early 80’s and those born in the early 90’s. I can still recall the days before the Internet. I grew up reading to learn, to escape, to travel, and to let my imagination roam where it pleased. I’m still a voracious reader. I can’t doze off so well at night if I don’t first read a chapter or two. I can’t hop on a bus or ride the subway if I don’t have a novel to dig into while in motion. I love books for their tangibility, their texture, even for the sweet autumnal smell of their pages. (Please don’t make fun of me for being a book sniffer ㅋㅋㅋ).
Reading helps sharpen our wits. It’s like exercise for the brain, for the act of reading aids in fostering creativity and imagination. We are creating when we take black and white text and convert it into colors, emotions, and actions in our minds. It’s simply a healthy thing to do, and I fear for the next generation…those who rarely read for pleasure and allow the TV and phone screens to do the thinking for them.
The shots taken here were captured with a Mamiya RZ 67 on Kodak Tri-X 400 film that I pushed to ISO 1600 in the darkroom. Enjoy, and please check out an excerpt from Timequake by the late Kurt Vonnegut below. Patrick Bresnahan ~
“I am eternally grateful to him [Uncle Alex Vonnegut], and indirectly to what Harvard used to be, I suppose, for my knack of finding in great books, some of them very funny books, reason enough to feel honored to be alive, no matter what else may be going on.
It now appears that books in the form so beloved by Uncle Alex and me, hinged and unlocked boxes, packed with leaves speckled by ink, are obsolescent. My grandchildren are already doing much of their reading from words projected on the face of a video screen.
Please, please, please wait just a minute!
At the time of their invention, books were devices as crassly practical for storing or transmitting language, albeit fabricated from scarcely modified substances found in forest and field and animals, as the latest Silicon Valley miracles. But by accident, not by cunning calculation, books, because of their weight and texture, and because of their sweetly token resistance to manipulation, involve our hands and eyes, and then our minds and souls, in a spiritual adventure I would be very sorry for my grandchildren not to know about. ” ~ Kurt Vonnegut