Progress is not truly progress solely because it is labeled so. What looks to be a new standard of freedom may often be nothing more than a new standard of sterility.
The ipod may be one example. It is now possible to carry 1,000 songs around in your pocket like a pack of gum, redefining "music to-go." And so we have this sort of mini-revolution in the realm of personal audio. Everywhere you go you see folks with the telltale white cords hanging out of their ears, enjoying - or enduring - their own private concert.
I'm trying to get used to it, and I'm not sure it's working. I feel like I'm crowded into my own little world - the music is all cramped up, and so am I. With an ipod, you no longer feel inclined to roll the windows down for that really good song, and it's putting me a little out of sorts.
Music is meant to be shared. It's meant to float out into the open air (within the constraints of consideration, of course,) where it can reign free in the auditory atmosphere. You can't sing along with an ipod without sounding stupid; even tapping your foot is bound to earn you a quizzical stare. No: now music, along with everything else, must be all business.
But this is a travesty, and here's why: music is meant to be absorbing. It's meant to lift you up, to be something that is simultaneously, gloriously, wholly connected to life and yet wholly other. (It may be significant to some that, in heaven, we "sing" the "song" of the Lamb. Why couldn't we just recite a eulogy?) But in the new world-to-myself mania, music is in danger of becoming just another boring backdrop, drumming along in the borders of your consciousness like a squeaky shopping cart. Rock 'n' dull.
So, as much as I treasure the space between my ears, ultimately I desire that my world would outgrow the confines of that narrow spread. God calls the very mountains to sing - to send the crashing crescendos of redemption echoing through the cosmos. That tells me we ought to take the lid off: as Steven Curtis Chapman put it, "Live out loud."