U2 “Even Better Than The Real Thing” from Achtung Baby

I’ve been thinking about the concept of simulation these days.

We all have optimum level of stimulation.  Under-stimulated, and you’re bored.  Over-stimulated, and you’ll be overwhelmed and exhausted.  The happy medium is different from person to person.

Except, in the internet age our attention span must be getting shorter, and we must be getting more comfortable with higher levels of stimulation.

Arts and entertainment is partially responsible for pushing the envelope. We don’t want to keep covering the same grounds, so we push and push — and extremes get more extreme.  Violence gets more violent, sexy gets sexier, colors more vivid and flashier, sounds louder and more bombastic.

I was at a consumer electronics convention one time, where a major manufacturer was touting a high-definition TV that produced more colors than detectable by human eyes.

Even better than the real thing, anyone?

Give me one more chance
And you’ll be satisfied
Give me two more chances
You won’t be denied

Well, my heart is where it’s always been
My head is somewhere in between
Give me one more chance
Let me be your lover tonight

(Check it out)

You’re the real thing
Yeah the real thing
You’re the real thing
Even better than the real thing

The danger here, though, is that exposure to higher levels of stimulation doesn’t equate to a real change in your optimum zone of stimulation.

As I grow older, and watch my young children grow, I’ve been shunning more and more extreme media — I’ve virtually stopped watching all TV and seldom watch movies — I become more aware of how stressful it is to get used to hyper-stimulation.  Things that used to entertain us, like reading books and listening to music, just don’t work any more — it has to be much richer, stronger experience.

But not all of us are built that way. Little kids start out being pretty sensitive to loud noises and scary images.  Is de-sensitization really the kind thing to do?

I’m still learning how to come down from stimulation-high to being calm and relaxed.  But sometimes I can’t sleep at night because I can’t unload all the messages that get left in my head.

So be ware, friends, be ware — do we really need it to be even better than the real thing?