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

Former Kelowna hockey player dies after battle with ALS

Mitch Wilson was born in Kelowna and was 57 when he died

Toddler sustains serious injuries after falling from Rutland balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment on May 18

Witness says Kelowna man on trial for murder admitted to the killing

Steven Pirko is charged in the killing of Christopher Ausman in 2014

Bus pull returns to Kelowna with record 17 teams

Teams of eight people will pull a BC Transit bus for their community on May 25

Search for missing kayaker turned over to West Kelowna RCMP

A 71-year-old man’s kayak floated ashore on Friday

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Raptors beat Bucks 120-102 to even series at 2-2

Lowry pours in 25 as Toronto moves within two games of NBA Finals

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

North Okanagan tests out two $10/day childcare sites

Katrine Conroy came to Vernon to tour universal child care prototype sites, including the one at Maven Lane

Okanagan medical cannabis shop shutting doors

Herb’s Health Centre has been operating without a city business licence for nearly a year

Bucking bulls return to Okanagan raceway Sunday

Bull Riders Canada returns to the South Okanagan with some of the top riders in Canada

Okanagan city to give out fines for sitting on sidewalk

Residents of Penticton will soon be fined for sitting or laying on sidewalks

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read