The Illusion of Separateness

Illusion of separateness


One night on the news, there was a story about a young girl in England  who wrote a note, put it in a bottle, and tossed the bottle into the sea. I assume she put her contact information on the note, because a grandmother in Australia found the bottle and responded to her message five months later. Now they are Facebook friends.

After I heard this story, it made me think about how small the world is nowadays, but there was hardly enough of the story to write about. That was until I saw a Ted talk the other day about a virtual choir. Voices from all over the world were brought together by a conductor, Eric Whitacre. Eric talks about how transformative his first experience in a choir was for him. He said “My entire life I had seen in black and white and suddenly I was seeing in shocking technicolor.” He described how amazing it was to participate in singing with a “shared vision” and how it made him feel that he was a part of something larger than just himself.

The idea stayed with him and he ended up recording a 2000 voice choir from all over the world. They all sat in front of their own computers at home and recorded themselves singing a part of the music Eric created. His technicians then pieced together all of these voice recordings into one great composition. He described the singers as “souls each on their own desert island all sending electronic messages in bottles to each other.” Here is a link to the YouTube video:

Eric concluded two things after this experience. One is that “Human beings will go to any lengths necessary to find and connect with each other” and that “People seemed to experience an actual connection, not just a virtual one. They have become friends electronically even though they have never met.” He also commented, “Aside from the beautiful music, it’s great just to know I’m part of a worldwide community of people I never met before, but who are connected anyway.”

The last time I checked he had 4000 people from 73 different countries in his virtual choir. His latest endeavor is a piece called Cloudburst where he unites voices from three college choirs live on stage with 30 voices performing remotely from all over the world in “real time.”

One of the guys in our coffee group complains about how people are so connected to their electronic devices that they don’t even talk to each other any more. Although I used to feel that way, I think he is missing the big picture. If they are communicating with someone from around the world, maybe they are contributing to world peace. I know it is a stretch to say that, but I feel if we learn more about other cultures, maybe we will be less likely to blow each other up.

Maybe learning more about someone who is from a different race or religion would help us to embrace our differences instead of being afraid of them. Granted some of these folks are playing games or checking Facebook, but even Facebook is connecting us in new ways. I have Facebook friends from other countries that I am not likely to ever meet in person. I have learned more about their cultures just by reading their posts.

So I have changed my view on being connected electronically. Even at my age, I can decide to be more open and embrace change.

While there is no substitute for a face-to-face relationship, I think there is also room for the virtual ones. Life is a balance. Why not have the best of both worlds?



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