Is Society Dead? - Summary / Review

 Andrew Sullivan begins the essay by noticing that the famous night life of New York city is almost dead.  The energy and interaction of the city people are gradually declining.  He finds out the cause of this change.  There are white wires of iPods hanging from their ears.  They are in their own musical world oblivious of the world around them.  This is addictive and spreading.

There is a bigger disadvantage for this cult.  You only listen to the music you love, follow the scores of the game you like, subscribe to the news feed that caters to your taste.  The larger possibility of serendipity is banished.  Meeting a new stranger, listening to a different kind of music, watching a new game,  or overhearing the opinion of a fellow passenger, all of these are made impossible.

Traditionally, music was a social enjoyment.  It was the concert hall experience of listening with other people that contributed to the joy.  Knowing the music you like was a way of knowing you.  But now, it is all a secret.  What is your fellow passenger listening to, whether it is heavy metal or a Gregorian chant, you will never know.  Thereby you will never know him.

We miss the sound track of life and become the masters of our own interest.  We miss the simple joys of everyday life like a child's chatter or a birdsong.  We are missing those thoughts that come only when we wander aimlessly though the regular background noise of everyday life.

External stimulation can crowd out our interior mind.  Even the boredom that we want to avoid, has its own uses. 

The author ends the essay recounting an experience of forgetting to take the iPod with him during a journey.  Initially there was panic.  But later he started enjoying the sights, sounds and experiences.  He started to feel more connected and more aware again.  He asks the reader to try it and discover the world that has a sound track of its own.


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