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On Being Podded

Friday, January 6, 2017 2:26
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The Technological Invasion of the Body Snatchers

[Nyerges is the author of “Self-Sufficient Home,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Extreme Simplicity,” and other books.  He writes a Blog on his web site, and he conducts outdoor field trips.  He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or www.ChristopherNyerges.com.]
The original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” was filmed locally in Sierra Madre, where the viewer watched pods being unloaded at the triangle at Baldwin and Sierra Madre Avenue.  It’s an insightful movie into human nature, and some have called it an analogy to alcoholism.  Watch the movie sometime and see if you agree.  You could also argue that the movie presented an analogy to any sort of addiction, or cult-thinking, where we are no longer in full control of our destiny.
A few recent experiences have made me realize that most of us are already fully “podded.” 
Not long ago on a cold night,  I went to a local Pasadena coffee shop to sit and drink coffee.  I thought I would meet someone and engage them in good old-fashioned conversation. I purchased my coffee and then found a comfortable chair where I could read the latest issue of Pasadena Weekly.  I hadn’t paid attention to the other patrons but I noted it was very quiet.
Finally looking up from my hot beverage and the rantings of my favorite Pasadena Weekly columnist Carl,  I saw that there was only one person per table, each wholly engaged in their laptop world. There was some light jazz playing in the room, but I seemed to be the only one tapping my foot to the music of Dave Brubeck “Take Five.”   Everyone had wires in their ears extending to some hidden source.  Everyone was tuned into something else, somewhere else, and no one was tuned into the here and now.  It was a room full of alone people,  separated, and non-communicating with anyone else in the here and now.  No conversation would be possible, I lamented.
I went outside in the cold to maybe make conversation with my fellow sojourners.  One man sat alone outside but spoke in hushed tones as he waved his arms.  No, not a crazy man, but a man who was tuned in elsewhere.  The other person outside was a woman, also alone and yelling into the abyss of her phone.  I would be making no conversation out here, I realized.  Everyone had vacant eyes, and they were somewhere else.  
I felt disoriented,  a stranger in strange land of techno-toys.  I got in my vehicle and drove away.
I went to a Pasadena Trader Joe’s market,  did my shopping, and noted that nearly half the shoppers were not here now, but chatted away on their cell phones and other devices to people somewhere else. Some had wires extending from their ears.
One man entered with a silver device wrapped around his ear, Star Trek-like, and he was obviously elsewhere as he talked to unseen recipients. I hailed him with my hand, and inquired about the object.   “It’s my I-pod,” he said enthusiastically.  “I couldn’t live without it,” as he waved me on, and continued with his very important conversation.
I talked to a young  friend who plays on a sports team at a local college.  When I told her about my recent experience, she told me that she takes a school bus with the other athletes to the soccer meets.  She told me that after the game, all her fellow students sit in their own private I-podded musical worlds as they bus home.
“Really?” I said, stunned.  “Don’t you all talk about the game?” I asked.
“We don’t do that,” was her reply.
What a depressing world we’ve devolved into.  I can recall bussing home from John Muir High School cross country and track meets, listening to “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” playing loudly on the bus radio, and all us boys loudly sang along in comraderie, whether we lost or won.  How have we descended to the point where it is regarded as better to reside in safe little individually-podded worlds?
It would be instructive for today’s over-teched youth to go watch the original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and replace “pod” with “I-pod.”  We are all being podded, and not only is there no fight, but it’s being welcomed as the next great thing.
Later that night, there was a localized blackout in my neighborhood for five hours or so.  I sat outside in the cool darkness of the evening with no cell phone, no lights, no TV, no telephone, no e-mail, no electronic gadget which would pod my mind and rob my time.  It was a deep pleasure to be alone with myself, to think about life, and life’s important questions, with no chance for google or wickipedia to presume to know the answers to my inner questions before I’ve even asked them. 
I marvel at our technological advances, and I know there are certain values to them. Still, I  cringe with sadness each time I  realize what all of us have lost.

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