Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

So appy living in the real world

Source: AP

WE get a lot of rain where we live; every night, in fact, and for hours on end.
Sometimes lightly, some nights like cats and dogs but still, every night, rain at our place, even when you haven't seen a drop at yours.
It's not climate change, not a glitch in the matrix or freak weather system casting a grey pall over a single Adelaide house.
It rains every night at our place because we want it to, because sleeping to the sound of large drops falling on a tin roof is one of life's great pleasures.
And because we discovered the joys of a smartphone app called Nature Sounds.
Just as the name suggests, the free iPhone app allows users to choose from a range of natural soundscapes, from crickets chirping and whales calling, to a ticking clock and the pressurised hum of an aeroplane.
The app also includes a mixer that allows users to pair a purring cat with a crackling fire or juxtapose a busy New York street with a Zen bell.
We like "Rain on a tarp" best and have grown used to crawling into bed and instructing one another to "Put on the rain" before drifting into blissful sleep.
It is a curious habit we've developed and kind of interesting too, I think.
Because while the sounds on the app are authentic and from nature the context (it rains in our bedroom 365 days a year) is weird and artificial.
And it raises some kind of deep, heavy, moral dilemma I once saw in a Michael Leunig cartoon about being so busy focusing on constructed realities you miss things that are true and beautiful and right under your nose. In the cartoon, a man and a boy are in a room watching a beautiful sunset over the ocean on TV, blissfully ignorant that the sun is actually setting right outside their lounge room window.
Whoa. I told you it was heavy.
The question is, are we getting so tangled up in technology we can't see the forest for the tweets?
And just because we can indulge our desire to hear the sound of rain any time we choose, is there something wrong with turning nature into a simulated experience?
Do we somehow cheapen the joy of events that used to be spontaneous and rare when we do?
The answer is yes. And no.
I'm old enough to remember when fruits and vegetables were seasonal, not perennially ripe and ready for your choosing.
I used to see cherries and know it was Christmas. Yep, technology did for seasons.
But how did it happen? We didn't storm the CSIRO demanding grapes all year round.
Science and commerce conspired to make it a reality and you said, "grapes in June? Oh well" and bought them anyway.
Ours is an impatient generation but only because technology made us that way.
We used to wait for summer fruits and new episodes of TV shows and for the pleasure of sleep with rain on the roof.
But why wait for a rainy day when you could be appy now?
This column was first published in The City Messenger and on advertiser.com.au