The retina is a screen. It’s actually the coolest screen in the entire world, but it’s a screen. The lens of our eyes project the images of the surrounding world onto our retinas, which are then mystically transformed into electric and chemical signals that travel to our brain, which then interpret the stereo images into wicked awesome 3D technicolor. (Actually, the rods and cones of the eye are more like trinitron televisions, combining receptors of three different colors to interpret every color known to man . . . hence the known to man part, although some females actually have four different colors . . . but I digress.)
Set aside the science of it, though, because it’s the soul of it that really makes up my theory. I’ve always believed that the eyes really are the window to the soul. No, I’m not suggesting that our souls are on our retinas (in which case a detached retina would mean the end of one’s natural existence). But I do think that when something projects onto my internal screen, it nestles up to my soul.
I believe that whatever we see touches our souls, and what our souls really long for is a connection.
I’ve said before that reading is powerful because words carry so much meaning, even the substance of existence itself. As you read this, our souls meet. Because of the power of words, the connection forged here is real insofar as the words adequately communicate the reality of who I am. Real as it is, it’s an indirect connection.
When you look someone in the eye, your souls shake hands, hug, slap high fives, or just slap. The connection isn’t always pleasant, but it’s undeniable and direct. Look into someones eyes and, whether you love them or loathe them, you’re paying them the respect of acknowledging the most enduring level of their existence. Stare too long, and you’ll make their soul feel a bit awkward. Of course, if they accept you, you can get lost in that connection for a very long time.
Enter the screen theory. Be it television, projector, monitor, or quartz crystal, a screen can play a trick on our eyes, our retinas, and our souls. I believe that when we look at a screen, we experience an imitation of a true soul connection. I think that even though our minds may not make the connection, we suspect in our innermost sanctuary that where there is a screen there is a soul. It is beyond subconscious, but it happens. We look at the television, the movie, the video game, whatever . . . and we believe in the connection.
The popular (and perhaps more plausible) belief is that people identify with the characters in TV shows, movies, video games, and whatevers. But I think it’s more than that. I think we connect with the screen itself and the mysterious entity through whose eyes these images are projected. I think it’s true on a computer as well. Whether you’re typing a term paper or furrowing through facebook, you see it on a screen. Your email shows up on a screen. Text messages, on a screen. Each screen that engages our attention, I believe, does so with the allure of a falsified soul.
If the theory is true, I think there’s a subtle distinction in the fixation. I think we are drawn — not to the characters, friends, and strangers we meet in a film, show, chat room, or email message — we are instead captivated by the imaginary intimate friend who relays all these stories and messages directly to our souls. The computer screen is such a close friend that he can tell me what my best friends are up to or show me pictures of my nieces and nephews. My TV knows me so well, she can send her most vivid recollections of LOST castaways and Office shenanigans directly to my brain. My buddy at the movies can cinematically tell me the story of Indiana Jones, and he does all the voices and sound effects personally.
Your imaginary friend, be he Mac or PC, is telling you all about my blog.
I think that’s why I get lost in this stuff. It’s an easy cure for loneliness. It’s also an empty cure. And it’s not to say I’m lonely. I’m not. But when I sit in front of any one of these screens, whether I’m perusing meaningless information with my friend Laptop or playing sudoku with my pal Handheld, I feel on some level like I would miss them if I left. It’s not so much an addiction as it is a horribly dysfunctional relationship.
Because it’s not a real soul on the other end of that screen. It’s an electronic void. What’s more, it’s an entirely one-way connection. My TV doesn’t feel better knowing I’m there. I think that when souls connect and accept each other, both souls feel that and feed off of it. No matter what affection I may pour into some electronic screen, my soul will never ever feel anything resembling love emanating from the phosphorescent glow. So all of those screens leave our souls feeling cold, alone, aloof . . . and starved.
That’s why reading books or even listening to the radio or music is so much better for your soul. There’s no illusion that the page is a screen, or that the actual book is a person. The connection is appropriately indirect. The words are real, and they don’t change with a new font or a yellowed page or a High-Definition anything. If the words and the ideas they represent are truly great, our connection with the author and the human experience they replicate is vibrant and alive and transforming and feeding . . . and wonderful.
If the words represent manufactured emotion that has no real basis in life, the void continues, but that’s another story.
And if the words are from God, the connection is eternal. Okay, too many rabbit trails are springing up. I’ll end the thought with this: turn off your computer, TV, cell, everything. Pick up a book, the Bible, or a pad of paper. Send real letters. Look into someones eyes. Find a real soul and snuggle up to it.