“Go back!” my friend, Nathan, and I used to scream with instantaneous delight, whenever something extra super funny happened while watching a pre-recorded show. “Ahhhhh! Oh my god, go back!” We’d back that bad boy up maybe have a dozen times before our glee was satisfied enough to go forward again.
More and more these days, I find myself engaged in some activity on my iPad while inning after inning of the baseball game unfolds, unwatched, in the background. Only when the commentators’ voices achieve a particular tenor do I look up at the screen. By that point the event is usually in its sunset, and I reach for the remote control to reverse all the little bodies and witness for myself what happened.
We’re so accustomed, in our technology-infused era, to exercising god-like power over time. Sometimes I wonder about the implications of that ability. It may be the difference between someone who drinks Shakespeare’s language as it is spoken, and someone who mentally gropes for the pause button just as Mercutio gets fired up. The difference between the person who looks forward to the next home run, and the one who finds a thrill in reliving the last home run from ten different angles. Puzzling though something by turning page after physical page forward, and puzzling though something by navigating backwards and forward through a strange continuum of web pages.
There is undisputed value in being able to contemplate images, events, and ideas slowly and repetitively. Exceptional knowledge has been borne of intense study into activities that used to arrive and evaporate in a veritable sensory blur. Yet has part of that transaction included a sacrifice of presence? Does each of us tend to be less attentive because we can always seemingly “go back?” And if we are each moving back and forth in our own disconnected presence, what does that mean for communion in time? The moments replayed and replayed and replayed some more by Nathan and I certainly used to bring us together. Yet that collective experience was an experience of only two. And more often than not it was an experience of one. Dominion over time has granted people great power and capacity. Unfortunately, it can be a very lonely reign.