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 All Good Things ... 

Submitted by Richard A. Bachmann on Sat, 07/02/2011 - 19:08

… come to an end, they say. But first of all, sorry that I have been silent for more than a month. I just returned from a road trip that brought me and a friend to Paint Lick, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Toronto, Canada. As we prepared for our journey I swore myself to keep away from the Internet for the duration of the trip. For two weeks I avoided checking my emails, did not chat on Facebook, and did not follow the news. Instead, I solely focused on what was directly in front of me: the road, new places to explore, and new people to meet - in rural Kentucky, postindustrial Pittsburgh, and booming Toronto. It is so easy to miss the small details that make out a journey and life overall when you are constantly on your phone or have your head somewhere else. As much as I admire the Internet for opening up the world to me, it also distracts you from the things that are right in front of you. Today, we travel the cyberspace to faraway places on a daily basis. But when it comes to traveling the real world we feel lost and disconnected from our virtual environment. The Internet has become our comfort zone. It is a place where everything is available at any time: "friends," maps, bus schedules, and "I like"-evaluations of our latest travel shots. Reality, in contrast, seems strange, chaotic, and threatening.

In the movie Surrogates, people have stopped experiencing the real world by using their own five senses. Instead of exposing themselves to the threats of reality, they live through surrogates that they control sitting in a comfortable chair in their homes. Since their neurons are connected to the mechanic nerves of the surrogates the protagonists feel, hear, see, taste, and smell what their robotic alter egos do. In this way, they experience all the pleasures of sensuality but avoid the threats that come along with the direct exposure to reality. At first it seems that they are living in a perfect world that offers them safety, comfort, social relationships, and sexual pleasures. In the end, however, the protagonists come to see that they are lonely in their fake togetherness. There is no substitute to the pleasures of reality however threatening it sometimes is. Experiencing the sun rising on the Purple People Bridge connecting Cincinnati, Ohio and Newport, Kentucky after a sleepless night spent in a movie theater, bar, and 24/7 diner cannot be substituted by watching Into the Wild, reading a blog entry, or looking up some photos on the Internet. One has to experience it oneself to see, feel, smell, hear, and taste the full beauty of it.

Since I did not want to miss the smallest of these experiences I kept away from the Internet for two weeks. To be honest, we sometimes used a smart phone to get directions and find our way in an unknown city. Now that I think about it though, we maybe missed some interesting experiences because of that. Anyways! There are other things on my mind right now, bothering things! Just as our road trip had to come to an end so has my time here in Athens. As we stepped off the bus on Wednesday after a 16hr bus trip from Toronto, Athens felt like coming home. In only six months this small college town has somehow managed to become home to me. Its inhabitants, structures, bricks, and the feeling it emanates will be truly missed. Once again it is time to pack my things, throw books, clothes, and all the small things that constituted my life here in two suitcases and prepare myself for heading back to Leipzig. I hate goodbyes so I make this short here:

It is not that the wheel has come full circle. Through my time in Athens, the people I met here, and the experiences I had I changed a lot; changed for the better that is. So this is not going to be a return to the status quo ante my departure from Leipzig six months ago. This is going to be a new start. And for that I wanted to thank everybody once again who has made this experience possible and great for me!

What an insightful take on the whole internet experience! Especially your conclusion that  "reality, in contrast, seems strange, chaotic, and threatening" is a great description of what world has to become to us, I believe.

Thanks for the great report!

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