Allegory of the Screens

A tribute to Abbas who thought us to look around.

The world is filled with people staring at glaring screens, the screens of their phones, computers and televisions, bound by their eyes and minds, unable to move freely. All they do in life is to sit and stare at their screens, either to work, to communicate or even to have fun. They are chained to their screens; they are the prisoners of the screens.

I was one of these shackled prisoners; but I had no idea, because I was slowly transformed into one and ultimately it had become the only life I had ever known. Because of the darkness of the room and brightness of the screens, I could barely see other prisoners, although I knew they were there for we had social networks on our screens to follow each other.

Captivating imagery kept us glued to our screens. Even images of mundane things like a dog, a car or a cup of coffee would keep us staring. On those screens we could watch exhilarating stories of “Love”, “Freedom” or “Truth” and in between we would see images of things that we were encouraged to own and we would pay with our time working on those screens to own them. We were fulfilled with our lives and those stories and those things we owned, because we could not have imagined it any other way.

But unknown to us, our life and things that we followed on those dazzling screens, was not a full picture of reality. If we could only look across our screens, we would see that there were still places out there where dogs, cars and coffee as well as “Love”, “Freedom” and “Truth” existed in their real sense and owning things was not a means to feel fulfilled.

If we could pull back further still, we could see a system working fiercely to create the content of our screens. These masterfully crafted visuals, images and stories kept us glued to our screens and while we would think that they are true, they were in fact a manipulated version of reality.

One day I heard a man calling my name. A distinct voice that reminded me of a time in my life, when screens were not dominant.  I went out to where the voice was coming from. Out there the brightness of the sun outdid the brightness of my screen. Confused, for the first time in a very long time I looked away from the screen and I saw real people just like me, looking away from their screens for the first time in a long time. Just like me, they had been called too they said. At first, we were all dazed and anxious for not seeing what we were so used to see on our screens anymore, we couldn’t even communicate to one another without using those screens, but then the man who had called us appeared and helped us discover the real world and each other. He told us that we were the jewels and that he was only a chain to bring us together and remind us of who we are.

With him we walked through the real world.  We saw real dogs, cars and coffee, rediscovering “Love”, “Freedom” and “Truth”. “How terrible to have only seen images on screens before” we thought. For days we embraced reality, tasted the coffee and looked at each other in the eye, sharing and caring in its true sense and not over the screens, forgetting the screens, living the life that was unknown to so many others still chained to their screens.

Realizing that I’ve been living a lie and have only been watching a virtual version of the reality I started capturing the real life with my camera to show to other prisoners upon return. But when I came back, I realized that they couldn’t hear me and see me for they were too busy staring at their screens. How could they believe me or care about what I had to say if they had never seen anything but the screens that they were chained to?

I turned back to ask the man for guidance, but he was gone, leaving us his words of wisdom and memories of that short lived real life to contemplate with.

I was lost,

I was angry,

I was hopeless…

I couldn’t bare those flamboyant screens anymore, those flashy screens glaring out blinding fables on chained people, convincing them to stare longer, scroll down, watch more, work more, earn more and buy more and more and more and more…

Is there any hope?  Or is it all gone?

I’m now using the same screens only to reflect my own experience. Who will see this? “Someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years”. I’ll let this be my version of the story among everything else on those screens and if I’m honest about my experience, which I utterly believe I am, this will reach that someone and make’em contemplate for a moment and it might even make them raise their head away from the screen and look around… That would be the first crack… and that’s how the light will come in…

Inspired by

Abbas Kiarostami,