Four years ago, I wrote the following for an OpEd in The Orlando Sentinel (December 19, 2007) – except for a couple of time-bound references, it still seems true today. See what you think.

“Can you OD on HD?: And you thought the term only applied to TV”

So while my wife and I were driving around one recent Sunday afternoon, we heard an advertisement on the radio touting the benefits of HD – high definition – radio. The, a minute later, an ad recommended HD lasik surgery (too bad for the suckers who got “regular” lasik surgery last year!), and another pitched a soon-to-be-released DVD in HD.

Shows how behind the times I am – here I thought “HD” applied only to the new generation in television technology. Apparently not! We see more and more HD products – in fact, one major electronics company now has a web site exclusively for “Living in HD” to show consumers how to maximize their HD products.

The possibilities are endless! HD college classes by Internet (same credits; fewer, more hi-def, hours); HD diets (we could all use more definition, right?); HD coffee (I know I would drink it tomorrow morning!) – wait a minute, we already have that – it’s called “bold roast with a triple shot of espresso.” But maybe we should just rename it “HD coffee.” Then of course, someone will introduce HD physical and psychological-enhancement drugs. Steroids drugs   . . . on steroids!

Perhaps this HD overdose reflects the law of diminishing returns: what stimulated us last month bores us this month. We need more. The picture can always have more pixels and be more realistic (one TV station now advertises not just HD but “stunning HD”). Our speakers can always produce better sound, approaching perfection. The theme-park ride can be a bit faster, higher, scarier, producing a cooler adrenaline rush.

Of course to some degree, our entire economy depends on planned obsolescence and the introduction of new and better products for consumption. “High definition” is merely the newest way to identify the next phase of bigger and better widgets.

Webster’s defines “definition” several ways. The commercial use (definition no. 4) says definition is “the action or power of describing, explaining or making clear” with sub-definitions specifying “clarity of musical sound in reproduction.” So high definition must mean making that which is clear even more clear; bringing further clarity to the clarity we already have. I’m starting to get dizzy!

Instead of always pursuing the faster processor, the more crystal-clear picture, the snappier cell phone, maybe at this time of year especially, we should focus on things that can truly satisfy and don’t need annual upgrades.

Toward the end of Proverbs, in the “Sayings of Agur” we read, “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die; keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.” Falsehood can have many modifications, but Truth can’t be made more true. And contentment is marked by the absence of a need to seek for more.

Maybe, as Americans seek for a “high definition life,” we should be careful lest we die a death of a thousand definitions.

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Mike Beates lives in the non-HD part of Winter Park and owns nothing “HD” yet.

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As I look back on this four years later, I would add that all this “HD stuff” (a technical term) – indeed to some degree all of technology – is an attempt to reverse the effects of living in a Fallen world. People expend great energy to find satisfaction and contentment in “things” when our satisfaction come ultimately in relationship – with our Creator, Redeemer, and with each other.

“HD Living” is only so much cheap “noise” to distract us from the truly human. Ken Myers told us recently about a study at University of Maryland where students were asked to “disconnect” from all technology from 24 hours. No phones, iPods, internet, film, music, etc. The overwhelming reaction was complete boredom and, in many, an inability to make it through the brief “techno-fast.” Among other things, the study concluded that the more “connected” young people are through their technology, the more disconnected they are from human relationships and from reality.

I am not a Luddite. I like music (live or reproduced). And I love communication in all its varied modes. But face-to-face relationship is profoundly human. We exchange that for technology at great risk to our souls. And yes, I see the irony of saying all this . . . on my blog!

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