We know that railroads once changed people's perception of speed. Historians record that humans had to learn to look at the landscape, instead of trying to focus on the foreground. Atlantic co-founder, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once wrote, "What new thoughts are suggested by seeing a face of country quiet familiar in the rapid movement of the railroad car." In that very big way, new technological experience forced people to recalibrate their minds. But it's happening in smaller ways, and with smaller objects, all the time.
I read Harper's August 2010 cover story, "Happiness Is a Worn Gun," with this in mind. Author Dan Baum, a long-time gun enthusiast, begins carrying a concealed
weapon. The story comes to be about how carrying that very special gadget, the gun, changes your consciousness of where you are.
First, he introduces into the quiet useful hierarchy of consciousness used in concealed weapon training courses.
Condition White is total oblivion to one's surroundings -- sleeping, being drunk or stoned, losing oneself in conversation while walking on city streets, texting while listening to an iPod. Condition Yellow is being aware of, and taking an interest in, one's surroundings--essentially, the mental state we are encouraged to achieve when we are driving: keeping our eyes moving, checking the mirrors, being careful not to let the radio drown out the sounds around us.
When he's packing heat, "there's no way to lapse into Condition White." Instead, "the revolver's weight and pressure keep me constantly aware of how quickly and utterly my world could change."