Taylor: Putting distance between us

Advancing technology seems to distance us from one another.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize last week got me thinking about the weapons we use in wars.

In the beginning, combatants had to confront adversaries directly. They fought with hands and teeth. Clubs and spears moved combatants fractionally further apart. Bows and arrows allowed people to kill at a distance. Guns let snipers pick off victims who didn’t even know they were targets.

In recent wars, airplanes flying so high that they were almost invisible dropped bombs and missiles on unsuspecting victims far below.

Today, remotely controlled drones pick off houses, villages, even individuals, halfway around the globe.

You can’t get much more distant than that.

But then it occurred to me that the same thing has happened to our communications.

In the beginning, all communication took place face-to-face, one-to-one.

The first mass communication probably involved someone standing on a pyramid or a hilltop and shouting. Like Moses, perhaps, transmitting God’s commands to the Hebrew escapees huddled at the base of Mount Sinai.

Since religions are the oldest organizations I know, I’ll continue with the religious theme.

There’s no record of Jesus writing anything—except for one ambiguous reference to him writing in the sand. But the story doesn’t specify what he actually wrote; some translations suggest he merely doodled in the sand.

Communication was still oral. Peter spoke to the crowds after Pentecost. Paul spoke to people around the Mediterranean.

The written scriptures—the epistles and gospels—didn’t come until later.

For centuries, letters were also one-to-one. With no way to make multiple copies, you wrote to a specific individual.

Perhaps, like most of Paul’s letters, you expected your correspondents to pass your message around. That makes them a bit more distant, a bit less personal.

The gospels came later, written for a more undefined audience. Matthew apparently wrote for Jewish converts to Christianity, Luke for Gentiles.

Each new technology since then has further distanced the writer from the audience. Gutenberg’s movable type and the printing press meant that Bibles and other documents could be distributed to anyone, anywhere. Writers no longer needed to know their audience personally.

Today, most of us get most of our information from dramatically distant sources—from newspapers edited in Toronto or Vancouver, from television studios in Atlanta or New York, from observers in South Africa or Egypt, transmitted by satellite or Internet.

There’s nothing face-to-face about most of our communication anymore, even if faces appear on the screen.

Electronic social media supposedly bring us closer together. But unlike personal letters, 90 per cent of the electronic communications I send and receive involve people I’ve never met, and probably never will.

A sociologist somewhere calculated that it takes 17 hours of continuous interaction to build a friendship. Continuous—not a few seconds at a time.

That statistic casts some doubt on the validity of “friending” someone on Facebook.

Increasingly, therefore, I treasure those situations—like congregations, clubs and recreational activities—where I can build real relationships with flesh-and-blood friends, face to face.

Just Posted

Crews continuing to clear rock north of Summerland

Site has had no movement for the past eight days

Kelowna developer makes an effort to help students left homeless after flood

U-Two developer is making an effort to help university students who were left in a lurch

Okanagan junior boys teams heading to basketball provincials.

The provincials invite 32 of the top junior teams in the province

Two accidents on Highway 97 near Vernon College

Emergency personnel have been called to two separate incidents on Highway 97 near Okanagan College

Alleged Okanagan sex offender arrested in P.E.I.

Offences occurred while Ivan Glen Winchester was living in Summerland between 2006 and 2010

Music Rundown: Who you should be watching play live this week

Fill your calendar this week with these great shows

No treatment for highly infectious measles, says doctor

10 cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver as of Friday

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

No gas in Okanagan town as lone station closed for renovations

Falkland’s Petro Canada will remain closed for renovations until March 1

Shuswap facility adds 60 long-term care beds

Mount Ida Mews hosts grand opening of second phase in Salmon Arm

UPDATE: One dead after crash on Highway 97A near Armstrong

Police have confirmed that one person is dead following an accident on Highway 97A Friday

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Multi-vehicle collision slows traffic on Highway 1

Trans-Canada Highway reduced to single lane between Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Most Read