Thursday thoughts: vicarious living and getting back to the real

“What is hip?”  They asked this in a song from the early 1970s (Tower of Power was the group, I think).

What is the deal here with all this gadgetry and technology we are addicted to, and ensnared and enslaved by?  Being caught on a very crowded street car during rush hour (the evening commute) last Thursday, I was surrounded by people standing and sitting beside me, both old and young, male and female, straight and gay, all with their hand-held devices out and turned on.  There was one middle-aged man across from me with a book open on his lap.  How quaint, how behind the times was he!  I bet many of these commuters would spend much of their evening in front of a television and/or playing with their Iphone.

Full disclosure: I do not own nor carry an Iphone, cell phone, Ipad, tablet, whatever.  My wife has her Iphone and she spends too much time with it.  Also, I live in a city with much mental illness.  Perhaps, 30 per cent or more of the adult population could be (perhaps should be?) placed in a state mental institution.  (I do not wish to go off on a tangent here and give my thoughts on contagious, collective psychosis.)  But, even so, I bet this behavior (hand-held device addiction) is found now in every city in the US, and much of the rest of the developed world as well.

Perhaps, we need to reject this virtual and vicarious living, and get back to the real experience of living.

There is now a debate on so-called transhumanism and there are questions about what it means to be fully or truly human.  Perhaps this could be rephrased or put this way:  What does it mean to be truly and authentically alive?  (If at your life’s end, they “download” your memories into an android type being or machine, the result will be a copy of you with your memories, but, sorry to say, it will not be you.)

What is better for us: watching a video of someone walking through the woods, or actually going out and walking in the woods ourselves?  What is more real: watching a television series about the romantic lives of various people (either real world persons, or scripted fictional characters – it does not matter), or actively working on your relationship with the person you love (or working at finding that person, if you are not with someone at present)?  The first scenario, being the passive observer to romance on the TV or theatre screen, is a vicarious experience at best.  The latter scenario is the real, authentic living.

The real is to be preferred over the virtual if you want to live authentically.  A person could opine that so-called virtual reality or vicarious living is fake living.  It seems to me that this fake living with its pseudo experiences ultimately leads to an emptiness in one’s soul, and an estrangement from reality.

Life in this world is filled with pain and hardship, and there are many times when there are not happy endings to things.  That is the reality.  We can try each day to make the best of it.  If we spend too much time in virtual experiences, that means we have less time for real, authentic experiences, be these positive or negative.  In a sense, being overly dependent upon the  virtual stimulation these gadgets and technology give us makes us less receptive to, less able to respond to real experiences.  (Tip: Instead of texting someone, try calling them and speaking live with them.  Better still, in person face to face communication when possible is the more human way to communicate with another person.)

Let us be mindful and make the conscious choice to get back to the real more in our daily lives.

And, this is especially valuable advice for parents.  Instead of giving gadgetry to your children for Christmas*, why not spend more time (the most valuable resource) with them in fun, engaging activities throughout the year.  Have them get involved in team sports, take them on picnics and hikes, or even simply to a nearby park, or the local zoo (if there is one in your city).  Children ought to be active, and not sitting all day glued to the small screen of a hand-held device or playing video games.  Along these lines, encourage your children to read rather than watch TV.  Reading makes a person use more of his/her brain than sitting passively narcotized by the television screen.  As well, encourage your children to take up various arts and crafts as hobbies, or the practice of music with a musical instrument.  Good, old fashioned household chores also help to make children practical and combat sloth and passivity in them.  Active minds and active bodies are what will make them healthy as they grow and mature.

* We note here that Christmas is a religious holiday (as in holy day).  Bear that in mind in your observance of Christmas.

Spontaneously, I took up a souvenir slinky (from a long past work assignment) this evening and amused myself for a few moments.  My wife was kind enough to oblige me and snap these following pics.  This is a simple pleasure.  There is no heavy or deep meaning in it.

A colorful toy seen here.



Another view.



Now, there is some motion to be seen.



A final shot.



As a special bonus, here is a link to our most listened to music post on our YouTube channel:

Shadowfax: Changing of The Guard

Until next time, try to live constructively, consciously, and purposefully.

copyright 2018 –


  1. Agreed! There’s nothing as satisfying as working or playing outdoors, even on a cold, blustery day like today; then coming in where it’s warm, for a hot cup of tea! Or losing yourself in a book that takes you (granted, vicariously, but more actively than an electronic device) into a far country to experience something new; or familiar, if it’s a favourite book. Or, like we did when we were teens, walking for miles and miles with our best friends, just talking. And I made many friends talking to people, while waiting in line for busses, airplanes and such-like.

    Can you imagine?? Today’s kids would go into withdrawal!! They have no idea!

    Ah! Real life! That’s why we don’t have the internet at home. We have to go to our local café or library, making for a nice walk, and then we can see some friends, too.

    So now I go back to China, circa 1948, to re-experience the hardships of the communist takeover. It could help me understand how to go through it when it comes here to Canada…


    1. Yes, good insights from your personal experiences. Thanks for your comment.

      When I was a teenager, in my free time I was bike riding, swimming (in the summer), hiking, playing basketball and doing a number of chores such as yard work. It was a much healthier use of free time than spending hours and hours with these hi tech gadgets. As well, I did a fair share of reading of books, too.

      1. Ah, yes… bike riding. I have no idea how many miles I put on my old 5-speed, a favourite activity of mine, too. Wish I would have thought to put an odometer on it!! I even rode to work all year one year after moving to the city, to save bus fare. I also walked over an hour to my jobs, too, because the activity did me so much good!

        And, like I see you by your partial picture, Larry, I’m NOT fat. WAY too many kids are so fat these days! It’s a crying shame!

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