I just did something I’ve done many times before. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. I expect many of my readers will be unimpressed, and will wonder why I’m so amazed, and why I’m wondering. So let me try to explain.
Yesterday, while at a friend’s house, I heard the soundtrack from the movie Schindler’s List. Composed by John Williams, and featuring the sublime violin solos of Itzhak Perlman, the music is deeply moving. Hearing it also reminded me of many scenes from the film, which is one of the most emotionally powerful movies I have ever seen.
Ever since I heard the soundtrack, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. So a few minutes ago I sat down at my computer, visited the iTunes website, found and then downloaded the music (for only $9.99). A quick transfer to my iPod, and now I’m listening to this fantastic album. (You can order this album in the “old-fashioned” way by clicking here and getting it from Amazon.)
I’ve done this sort of thing many times before. I’m not a novice when it comes to music downloads. I never did the Napster thing, but I’ve dropped a good chunk of change through iTunes.
So why am I amazed by what I just did? And why am I wondering?
I’m amazed because, for some reason, I was able to step back and see my actions from a bit of a distance. Usually I take for granted the downloading of music. But, for some reason, today I see differently.
For most of human history, people didn’t even have the ability to record sound. The first phonograph was invented by Thomas Edison only 130 years ago (November 21, 1877). Listening to sound recordings became popular in the 1920s, with the invention of vinyl disc records. LPs (long-playing records) came along in the 1930s. The 20s also featured the invention of magnetic tape (reel to reel) for recording and playing back sound. This technology received a huge popular boost in the 1960s because of the invention of the 8-track tape ten years earlier. In 1963 Philips introduced the cassette tape. Two decades later, in late 1982, Philips and Sony released the first music on Compact Disc (CD). As you can see, all of this is fairly recent in human history.
But all of these fine technologies had certain limitations. If you wanted to listen to a song, you had to physically go and purchase it from a store. If the album you were seeking wasn’t current (as in the case of Schindler’s List, which is 14 years old), chances are you wouldn’t find it in most record stores. You might get lucky in a used record store. Or you might have to order it and wait several days. Even ten years ago, if I wanted to own a copy of the Schindler’s List CD, I might have to spend several hours to find it.
Then, in 1999, Napster came along, allowing computer users to download huge amounts of music for free. Naturally, this raised legal challenges, since it amounted to stealing copyrighted material. While the record industry wrung its hands and fought Napster in court, Apple got busy, introducing iTunes in 2001 along with its fantastically popular iPod. As they say, the rest is history. In April of this year Apple announced that it had sold over 100 million iPods. By this time users had downloaded over a billion songs!
Today it took me no more than ten minutes to locate and download the album. That’s why I’m amazed. What a time savings! What a convenience! What a luxury!
Why am I wondering? I’m wondering about how this newfangled expediency will, over time, impact my soul, and our corporate soul. I’m not big on delayed gratification. I want what I want, and I want it now. And when it comes to music, I can pretty much get what I want when I want it. Is this good? It’s surely pleasant and convenient. But is it good? Or is there something ennobling about having to wait, even to purchase a piece of music? Would I appreciate having the Schindler’s List soundtrack more if I had to invest more effort to get it? Or am I morally better off because I have been able to listen to this transcendent recording for the last two hours rather than driving to a record store in what might have been a fruitless search?
As you can see, I’m not preaching here, just wondering. As a lover of technology and convenience, I think iTunes is just swell. And Amazon. And Google. And all of their online friends. Ironically, as I was writing this blog post, my wife wanted me to purchase a couple of CDs for a friend for his birthday. So I did, in about five minutes, thanks to Amazon.) But what happens if we begin to think all of life should be so instantaneous and serviceable. What if we expect our spouses to be like this? Our children? Our churches? Even our God?
So I’m both amazed and wondering. And I’m delighting in the Schindler’s List soundtrack, which I highly recommend, no matter how you choose to get it.
Tomorrow I’ll get back to my “mission of God” series.