The Felt Contact Of Things
“On the one hand, the iPhone concentrates all the possible accesses to the world and to others in a single object. It is the lamp and the camera, the mason’s level and the musician’s recording device, the TV and the compass, the tourist guide and the means of communication; on the other, it is the prosthesis that bars any openness to what is there and places me in a regime of constant, convenient semi-presence.”
– The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends
Was the experience of spaces and presences long ago fundamentally different from what it is today? Did perception yield a feeling that no longer exists?
A meadow, a winding path in the woods, the sight of a garden or tributary, everyday occurrences such as the falling of leaves or the sweeping of the wind across the plains – how did the encounter of all such life shape and form the mind of our forbears? Was there a reciprocal relation of a mystical or quasi-mystical bent?
Are there aspects of relating, knowing, feeling, intuiting, ascertaining that are daily being killed off? Are we entombing ourselves in a vast super-computer, living a non-life?
If so, when did our life end and our non-life begin? Elias Canetti wondered about this:
A tormenting thought: as of a certain point, history was no longer real. Without noticing it, all mankind suddenly left reality; everything happening since then was supposedly not true, but we supposedly didn't notice. Our task would now be to find that point, and as long as we didn't have it, we would be forced to abide in our present destruction. 
Consider the following passages. The first is from a letter the poet Rainer Marie Rilke sent his translator in November of 1925; the second is from the book To Our Friends by an anarchist collective going by the name “The Invisible Committee.” And the third is a passage from J. Krishnamurti’s Meditations.
“An ever swifter vanishing of so much that is visible”
“[There is an] ever swifter vanishing of so much that is visible, whose place will not be supplied. Even for our grandparents a “House,” a “Well,” a familiar tower, their very dress, their cloak, was infinitely more, infinitely more intimate; almost everything a vessel in which they found and stored humanity. Now there come crowding over from America empty, indifferent things, pseudo-things, dummy-life…A house, in the American understanding, an American apple or vine, has nothing in common with the house, the fruit, the grape into which the hope and meditation of our forefathers had entered…The animated, experienced things that share our lives are coming to an end and cannot be replaced.” 
Living in a regime of “constant, convenient semi-presence”
“The crisis is not economic, ecological, or political, the crisis is above all that of presence. To such a point that the must of commodities – the iPhone and the Hummer being exemplary cases – consists in a sophisticated absence outfit. On the one hand, the iPhone concentrates all the possible accesses to the world and to others in a single object. It is the lamp and the camera, the mason’s level and the musician’s recording device, the TV and the compass, the tourist guide and the means of communication; on the other, it is the prosthesis that bars any openness to what is there and places me in a regime of constant, convenient semi-presence, retaining a part of my being-there in its grip. They’ve even launched a smartphone app designed to remedy the fact that ‘our 24/7 connection to the digital world disconnects us from the real world around us.’ It is brightly called the GPS for the Soul.” 
We hardly ever listen anymore
“We hardly ever listen to the sound of a dog’s bark, or to the cry of a child or the laughter of a man as he passes by. We separate ourselves from everything, and then from this isolation look and listen to all things. It is this separation that is so destructive, for in that lies all conflict and confusion. If you listened to the sound of those bells with complete silence you would be riding on it – or, rather, the sound would carry you across the valley and over the hill.” 
1. Elias Canetti, The Human Province (New York: Seabury Press, 1978), pp.69-70.
2. The full letter can be found in Duino Elegies, by Rainer Marie Rilke, trans. J.B. Leishman and Stephen Spender (New York: Norton, 1967), pp.128-130.
4. See “The Insights of J. Krishnamurti,” Philosophical Society.com
(May 7, 2017)