By Troy Headrick
To be human is to have limitations. Some of our limitations are physical. For example, in my case, I know for a fact that I cannot run a marathon, nor can I lift a barbell loaded with two hundred pounds over my head (even though I’m fairly fit). We are also intellectually limited. I am, for instance, certainly nowhere near the smartest person in the world, and my inability to do many kinds of mathematical problems is (and always has been) terribly embarrassing. Of course, I’ve just scratched the surface of the kind of ways I’m limited and how those limitations affect my life.
Here’s the thing about me though: I’m terribly stubborn and determined. I’ve always been the sort of person who has striven to overcome limitations, expand my horizons, and augment my skills. You might be that kind of person too.
Until very recently, we were all limited by space and time. None of us could be in two places at exactly the same moment. Neither could we move forward and backward in time at will. Again, notice that I said “until very recently.” Today, these limitations have been overcome, and it’s the internet that has helped us transcend them.
Before I demonstrate how to transcend space and time, I’m going to warn you that you’ll need to listen with an open mind and ready yourself to think imaginatively as we move into the next part of this blog. As a matter of fact, the imagination is probably the greatest tool we have at our disposal when it comes to getting beyond those things that limit us, that hold us back. Just think about that for a moment. The human imagination is a tool. We use it to visualize things that don’t currently exist, to reinvent ourselves, to speculate about what others are thinking and why they act the way they do, to imagine what life is like in others places, to solve all sorts of problems (like how to go about transcending space and time), and so on and so forth. When we imagine, we are, for all intents and purposes, dreaming with our eyes open, creating a reality of our own making.
Okay, here goes. Click on this link. It will take you to a webcam that is livestreaming a square that’s located in the old town of Warsaw, Poland. You may need to click the arrow in the middle of the frozen image to activity the livestream. After that, maximize the screen so that the scene fills your monitor.
I currently live in San Antonio, Texas, so I’m actually seeing (in real time) life taking place in a part of a city located in a country that is halfway around the world from where I’m sitting. But by using technology and my imagination, by watching the people strolling along the cobblestone streets of Warsaw, I am entering into that world, into the lives of those I’m observing. I am both aware of myself sitting in front of my computer in Texas and playing the role of voyeur. I wonder what those Poles moving into and out of my sight are thinking and talking about. While I’m watching, one individual, a youngish blond woman, appears to be thinking about something. She pauses and then turns around and hurries off in the opposite direction. The speed with which she’s moving makes is look like she might have forgotten to do something. I am living my life and this stranger—thousands of miles away from me—is living hers. The internet has magically connected us. It has transported me across space and time. Though it is morning in San Antonio, I see it is early evening in Poland. The scene in front of me is taking place both right now and in my future.
I highly recommend that you begin finding interesting webcams livestreaming on the internet. You could start with three of my favorites: this one in Italy, this one in a bar in Thailand, and this one of a town in Hungary.
As you watch these, think about the implications of what you’re seeing. You have been transported. You are both an observer, and by thinking about those people you’re watching, a kind of participant in their lives.
While I was preparing to write this blog, I showed some of my favorite livestreaming webcams to a colleague. (She was not aware that such webcams existed.) After looking at them for a minute, she told me they made her feel “weird,” a little “creepy,” and that they “boggled” her mind.
What do you think about this blog? Do you happen to have a favorite livestreaming webcam you’d like to share with us?
Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found at Thinker Boy: Blog & Art.