I came up behind a well-dressed man seated upon a park bench. It was a bright day, the sun was shining, and the grass was neatly trimmed and covered with a sprinkle of fallen autumn leaves. I accosted the man – but he never moved, nor acknowledged my presence. His eyes remained fixed on his touchscreen device held lightly in both hands, earphone cords dangling from his earlobes. He was oblivious to the world around him. I thought he was rather like a breathing corpse: devoid of conscious thought, motionless, and unaware.
He wasn’t the only statue-like person I saw. Scattered like some macabre tableaux from a zombie apocalypse movie were bodies in various motionless attitudes throughout the park. They gave me the impression of having been somehow teleported into position without moving a muscle. All around me I sensed newsfeeds being avidly devoured, FaceBook statuses being busily updated, photos snapchated, and clips downloaded from YouTube.
None of the bodies took the slightest notice of me – or gave the smallest hint that they were aware of the presence of others. Interpersonal relationships – I reflected, sadly – were far easier these days: there simply weren’t any. Well, no relationships outside the medium of global curators like FaceBook “friendship circles”, or Twitter followers: whose communications are constrained to insanely truncated 128-character messages containing nothing but banal platitudes, hashtags, and always ending in LOL.
I came to see the living corpses in front of me – as I now thought of them – were in a real sense infantile: emotional babies inside full-grown bodies, starved of intimacy and affection; drowning in a continuous stream of alerts, updates, messages, and reminders. They could remain infantile as long as the chose because they never needed to grow up: their toughest obstacle to date had been choosing an ISP. And afterwards – being constantly online – what real-world obstacles needed overcoming? They were now far too busy accessing a lifetime of entertainment carefully designed to prevent them from actually doing something worthwhile, or achieving something of value. The thought that their transient online-game high-score didn’t actually matter never crossed their minds. They remained oblivious to events in the real world – preferring to spend time in the company of avatars and virtual friends.
I left them behind immersed in their counterfeited, ersatz realities. None of them noticed me leave: just as, in fact, none had noticed me arrive. For all I know they remain there still – ordering the occasional pizza delivery which they consume without tasting, flicking their thumbs across their touch-screens: while all around them the world continues to turn, night succeeds day, seasons pass, until at last the heavens fall and the last trump sounds.
And only then will they finally awaken – to stand alongside all the other dead arising from their graves: finally and completely stripped of their virtual realities to stand naked before incarnate Truth: Truth that demands and gets their entire and full attention, forcing them to attend to the ultimate Reality which they had spent a lifetime avoiding.
Mere words simply cannot describe what will happen next.