Sensory Deprivation

Having been so far unable to reclaim our lost pigs, I spent a good bit of the weekend traipsing–and yes, I am quite certain that I was traipsing–around the woods seeking a quick flash of red or a snort. With the exception of dozens of hoofprints and a lone sighting, I came up empty.

Yesterday, before heading down the hill to walk the length of our creek, I carefully assembled my gear: a hat to protect my scalp from briers, sunglasses to keep nasty things from my eyes, long sleeves, muck boots. Then I nearly grabbed my iPod.

Bonehead! You can’t go around the woods seeking an animal that almost always reveals itself by sound before doing so by sight with a pair of earbuds stuck in your ears. You can’t do that any more than you can effectively drive down a busy street while texting some vitally important witticism to Twitter.

Modern life, it seems, is a study in sensory deprivation. Paradoxically, the path to sensory deprivation has traveled through a great deal of sensory overindulgence. Today, my students can’t go twenty minutes without checking Facebook. I’m all for Facebook, but do we really need it the way we need breath? Those same students can be seen streaming out of classrooms, each one flipping out a phone. They plug into iPods and wear overload amounts of Axe. They so fill their visual, auditory, and other senses that they can’t see a coneflower, hear a whippoorwill, or smell much of anything.

When I put on my music, that’s great. I enjoy Doc Watson and Iris Dement. I even enjoy the music Tom inflicts on me–sometimes. But by filling my ears with that sound, I can’t hear the pigs snorting in the underbrush. It’s a trade-off and not a clear one. Sometimes, I’d rather hear Doc Watson than the pigs. The important thing is that I make that trade-off consciously.

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