iPods let us ignore the sounds of silence, each other

by Mark Pleiss

For some reason, a homily by an old priest still dwells in my memory from my days as a Catholic schoolboy.

It was Ash Wednesday. I was in sixth grade. I remember being angry that I would have to go to church three times that week to satisfy the holy day of obligation, the weekly Friday all-school mass and of course the typical Sunday venture.

But for some reason I put away my childhood attention deficit disorder and listened.

Father O’Kent was always known as the conservative Irish priest who proclaimed that God, all the way up in heaven, should be able to hear all the “Amens” in mass clearly. And when it came time for ash distribution, he showed how pieces of school children’s spines should be chipped in the rigid thumb-to-forehead application process to truly remind them of Lent.

That day, long ago, I listened as this ancient man gave a surprisingly accurate and modern prediction: that we were killing God with our dependency on the media. He even went ahead to say we should spend our 40 days of Lent in silence, so we can hear God.

This memory came to mind last Friday as I took my daily 7:45 a.m. zombie sleepwalk to class. I noticed a young man listening to his iPod on the way to class, then another, then another. As the day progressed, I became interested in this odd phenomenon and began to count how many were in on it. I stopped at 8, and this was just in my short class-to-class ventures.

I kept up my interest in the matter and realized Simpson, and probably the rest of the country, has found a new fad. The society that killed God has moved onto its next victim, human interaction in all areas of life.

But the iPod fad was one that only needed time. Like the computer that carried a tab only the Warren Buffets of the world could pick up, the iPod began in January 2001 with a $500 price tag.

But what’s interesting is that the price has dropped, but not nearly as drastically technology-wise as such things as the computer, Play Station II and portable CD players. An average iPod today, according to Apple’s Web site, costs around $350 to $400.

Nevertheless, the iPod has gone mainstream, hitting the middle class that doesn’t mind throwing down more than $300 for a new toy.

It may be that the middle-class standard has been raised that high, or, that constant media advertising and iPod-fad status has succeeded in reaching deeper into the wallets of the bourgeois.

But we all know we aren’t mindless morning zombies to the media. We buy things because we like them and make rational financial decisions all the while. My best guess into the iPod success is that it’s a new and sexy gadget that appeals with both a function that perfectly targets its marketed audience and an image of upper class we all crave.

The iPod gives people the power to not have to talk to other people. We walk down the street, and if someone wants to talk to us, we don’t have to respond. The shiny device and its long cords running from our ears proclaims that we wish not to be disturbed.

But what we must remember is that there are consequences to trendy devices that feed us constant media exposure.

Silence truly is golden.

iPods don’t challenge us to think. This is problematic in a secular educational environment, as well – as Father O’Kent would agree – a religious one; two sides most will agree are important to basic human vitality.

Of course I’m not saying media exposure is evil, and we should all take a Jesus-like trip to the desert. I’m more than aware that I write this for a mass-produced publication with information I double-check on the Internet frequently, while I listen to a Rilo Kiley CD near one television in one half of my room showing a reality show and another showing a Mexican soccer game.

I know the media is everywhere, affecting me, you and even Father O’Kent. I just wonder how necessary it is to listen to music on the way to the class. Stop and look around you.

Let the sound of birds be your Godsmack.