Malcom Gladwell has written many times, in his books and his NY Times column, about how the world continues to get smaller and smaller due to the internet and global economic activity. In a recent TED talk I listened to, the speaker stated that “electronic devices are shrinking both time and space.” According to these thinkers, we should be excited about the fact that we can see or obtain just about anything we want at any time through a button click on Amazon or the like.
I remember when I went to Germany for a student exchange program between the junior and senior years of high school. One of the things I and my family were most excited about was the chance for me to bring back Haribo gummi bears. It was a HUGE deal because you couldn’t get them anywhere in my town at the time. I think I brought back four of the largest bags I could get and they probably lasted about a year between me and my siblings.
When I went home on leave from England during my first five years in the Air Force, I would seek out the things I couldn’t get in England. The things that made me nostalgic for good old America like a great cheeseburger, a Slurpee, or sunshine J The world was big then and I appreciated different things at different times because space and time were big too.
Now, I can walk down to the local 7=11 for a bag of Haribo gummi bears and get British food and tea at the local grocery store. Almost nothing is out of our reach today because of the Internet and global markets. Just one click gets you pretty much anything you can think of today. However, time and space can’t shrink two things: Places and People.
No matter how many times I look at an image of a place or a person, that is not going to give me the same emotional satisfaction as being there absorbing the majesty of Creation, walking through a 1,000 year old city, admiring the juxtaposition of architecture designed in the 18th century amidst modern buildings designed this century, the hustle of a marketplace in Seattle or Philadelphia, the warmth of a hug from a family member, the smile and laughter we share sitting together a the table playing cards…You get my point.
Space and time may have shrunk for “things,” but the things that matter most can’t be captured through a click, text or Instagram. I miss places I’ve been to many times and places I haven’t been to yet. I constantly think of the people I can’t be with whether they are one city away or on another continent. Those experiences we have in the places we enjoy with the people we love can never be reduced by anything.