In the last few weeks with the help of the gift of an almost brand spanking new iphone over Christmas, I’ve been learning to edit, to crop, to centre, to enhance my photos.
Enhance seems to be the operative word here – and it’s become striking obvious to me in the process that so much of what we see is quite simply “enhanced” airbrushed, cropped, colours heightened and brightened, endless tricks to form an image which is more noticeable, perhaps more pleasing to the eye and attention grabbing than the reality. Of course it doesn’t stop at pictures – fortunately perhaps for me:
As I sung and recorded some music recently, the sound engineer sat in his small hidden room in front of his screen toning down the less melodius, seemlessly editing out the wrong notes until what remained was a perfect but only semi real version of the original.
Perhaps these seem like small things, aesthetically pleasing tweaks that cause no harm – but there is a sense that increasingly exposed to such manipulation in everyday life the dull, repetitive, monochrome of our very existence can somehow lose its magic and send us searching for the sensational, the loud, the fast, the bright, the attention grabbing. Suddenly reality is not enough and we yearn for some other world – as world that has been engineered for and by us which is is so very loud – so artificially full of action that unless we make it a concious habit, it becomes difficult to revere the ordinary, the real. We become sensation seekers and in the process miss much of the wonder of the ordinary.
Much of our world has been made hyperpalatable with controlled ambient temperatures, surround sound audio, 3 d cinema experiences, coloured flavour enhanced food. The usual and the everyday become dull and monochrome in contrast.
Evolutionary pressure has created brains that filter away the ordinary in order to notice novel – and perhaps threatening or advantageous changes in environment and thus humans are programmed to be thrill seekers. In modern life we are bombarded by sensory distraction, driven like crazed magpies to seek all that glitters and to shun the silence and peace that remains when the external stimulation ceases.
In a world that seems sometimes to be on a permanent high, it becomes increasingly difficult to live without stimulation as this study in which volunteers chose to experience painful electric shocks in preference to spending time alone with no distraction
Given we’re wired to notice and seek the new, the first step in starting to find joy and beauty in the ordinary might be to cultivate an awareness of the fact that much of what we are exposed to is explicitly designed to produce a sensory high, to conciously recognise when attention is being grabbed by seductive unreality. It’s the same old thing, slowing down, letting go of the story teller within and simply sensing the here and now and do this again and again. There is wonder, real wonder to be had in the most ordinary of moments and it’s wonder that will be missed in the search for more….