Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Age of Solaris

Are we becoming Solarians?  Solarians were the people in Isaac Asimov's book The Naked Sun that lived in total isolation from one another.  Their only interactions were through the safety of a viewing screen.  In this way they protected themselves from human contact.  In the last decade, our social connections have multiplied electronically through the Internet but have our personal interactions kept pace?  If not, what are the consequences and what is taking their place?

Some advertisements imply that our physical ailments are our new companions.  Depression, opioids, bladders, and intestines are depicted as animated creatures who interact with their humans - even texting them. (Talk about your out-of-body experience!)

Recently Jessica Pierce wrote an article for The New York Times titled "Is Your Pet Lonely and Bored?"
It is about the rise of the pet population in the United States and its consequences.  As the title of the piece suggests, humans can infect their pets with the same emotional problems they suffer.  It is ironic that in an effort to ease one's own loneliness or boredom, a pet owner may unwittingly inflict it on his or her pet.

Finally, consider the names we assign people or groups:  "immigrant" "teenager" "conservative" "pro-choice" "Solarian".  Sometimes names are useful.  They provide an opening for engagement.  "Stranger in a park" can be the context from which to explore a human connection. However, our names can become protections against involvement, commitment, and interaction.  They can be a safeguard against the "I - Thou" relationship - an excuse for disengagement and isolation.  They can transform us into Solarians.

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