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Real Versus “More”

June 8, 2011

I love NFL Network. For 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, I can tune in and it is as if the football season has never ended. During the season, NFL Network’s even more extreme companion channel, NFL Red Zone broadcasts every single scoring play from every single game, often live. These are but 2 exemplars of creeping “more” –ness that is increasingly distorting reality.

Similarly boxing has appeared to wane in our public interest because we have a new “more” – Ultimate Fighting – where it’s not just men hitting each other with fists covered with fluffy stuff but feet, heads, barely covered knuckles and entire bodies crash into each other with almost no limitation as to what is allowed or not allowed. Traditional boxing simply cannot compete with this “more” thing.

The “more” phenomenon has always been with us. The Tower of Babel aspired to a teachable breaking point. Rome grew to be too much “more” and fell of its own distention. Truth be told, many cities in the first half of the 20th century “more”-ed themselves into absurdly unplanned growth beyond the ability of any central urban core to be efficient or, more fashionably, “sustainable.” Architecturally, the most egregious commonplace “more” is the McMansion – a house designed to be a cheaply built large-scale airbag that would impress buyers with its bulk and visitors with its absurdity. Obviously the powdered wigs of the 17th century and the big hair of the 80’s showed that humans pushed the ‘more’ envelope personally as well as architecturally.

But like almost everything else in the last ten years, technology has simultaneously abetted our better and worse angels. The “more” that used to be satisfied with Techni-Color, “Sense-Surround” or IMAX theaters now seems to have a sweeping and pervasive uptick in 3-D technology that is threatened to actually invade our homes. Hi-Def was once “more”, and may soon be  so “then”.

When “more” merely takes a current reality and adds layers of mass to it, (a la the McMansion), it’s still dealing in the tangible world. However, when technology further separates us from the world of gravity and dimension via 3D video or iPhone apps, I sense the possibility that adding yet another layer of cultural confusion that begs the question of why we are doing what we are doing.

When Congressman Anthony Weiner decided that “more” meant reaching out to people that he had no tangible connection to, with communications that are typically embarrassing enough that they are traditionally only shared with those that love us. That obsessive “more” was a dispiriting spectacle of the human need to go beyond what we have to what we hope will be a better reality.

The “more” of sexting is a sad revelation of a need to be ever more connected to an ever larger reality. Contrast that fetishistic OCD self-destruct mechanism to the wildly overreaching attempt to build the largest church in the world, St. John the Divine in New York. It was started in 1892, remains unfinished and was situated in the far orbit of where people assumed Manhattan would create a natural extension of WASP cultural dominance where street numbers reached triple digits. That never happened.

That irrational outreach beyond a reality based physical grasp offers a positive, (though ultimately unfulfilled) window into the “more” mindset. It took a desire for “more” into dimensional extremes, overwhelming those desiring that “more”’s ability to provide funding to finish or honestly assess the availability of meat in the seats to justify the built result.

Public excesses of “more” are tempered and channeled in ways that mesh with culture – not always for good (Nazi rallies come to mind), but at least these public expressions of hubris are done in the light (and gravity and dimension) of day.

But when technology facilitates diving into the deluded safety of our own isolation to create worlds that are self-crafted out in cyberspace, it reveals a sad failure of the world around us. Weiner clearly found the rewards of the tangible world to be inferior to the ephemeral and inherently bogus rewards of a world built solely between his ears.

“More” is ironically less.

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