Could We Just Stop a Moment to Consider

Posted by on June 29, 2013 in On Life | 6 comments

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by Christina Carson

I am a techno-luddite. It’s not due to fear of change or resistance to things new. Rather it comes as a natural response for me to anything that has the power to grab our attention in an addictive fashion. This concern stems from watching the human species drawn to that which increases our sense of separation from each other, the world, our human experiences. I feel it in myself; I sense it in others, this desire to escape into these multicolored, sound-laden, technological hollows of games, videos, or internet-inspired media as the world around us fades away.

kids and technologyThe other day while grocery shopping in a small market, I noticed a child, perhaps five years old, trailing behind his shopping father. This beautiful boy with dark curls and sweet face was staring into an electronic device which he held, with both hands, reading distance from his nose. The entire time he spent in the store, he never looked up. People moved around him to avoid crashes, and a sixth sense kept him away from the maze-like set of display tables. The store has an international flavor, being an open market. It attracts people of many cultures more accustomed to that sort of display. As well, they carry a fine selection of types of fruits and vegetables not as common to a westerner. But this child lost the opportunity to avail himself of cultures who adore children, who would have given him a moment of love or kindness. Instead, when his father finally reached the checkout counter, he grabbed the shirt of this mesmerized child and gave him a gentle push in the direction of the door to the outside. That dear boy had no connection with the moment he was actually living, there within that store. He did not see the unusual vegetables or notice the fascinating costumes, or hear the alluring sound of the foreign languages. He did not get the opportunity to spark his curiosity, a chance to explore differences, or any attention left to ask questions about that amazing little market, or the world, or life. His world was flashing lights, mechanical sounds, and the slightly heightened intensity that his focus engendered.

Our attention is the most important capacity we have available to us as human beings. You could call it a force, many have. You could call it energy which we often do when we want to indicate something that we can’t entertain with our five senses but can see the effect of. We get to direct and position this force. In fact, we have no choice about engaging with it. Attention is always in an active state. The choice is whether we direct it consciously, let it wander aimlessly, or place it on empty activities that use it up with no nourishing return.

A fine question at this point in human history is why are we so needful of diversion, of places to hide out? We shouldn’t kid ourselves that just because we see the world and its happenings many times a day or kids without technologyinterface with people all over the globe, we are engaged with life. I think we are more afraid, emptier, and unhappier than ever. And rather than own that, and begin to ask the more useful questions that might change our course, we sit down in front of our computer, or grab our phone, or play our games and, by our model, instruct our children this is how to deal with life.

I love this earth. Its order, its harmony, its beauty astound me. I love human nature and all the amazing stories it can engender through its sometimes hapless, sometimes crazy, sometimes endearing, and always compelling choices it makes. But I’m troubled that we don’t stop enough to examine where lemming-like we seem to be headed.

In a short but stunning poetic statement by Mary Oliver entitled: “Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes,” she contemplates:

That God had a plan I do not doubt.

But what if His plan was, that we would do better?

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6 Comments

  1. I have it on good authority that God does have a plan and it’s exactly what Mary Oliver suspects that it might be.

  2. Damn! You made me think…

    When I was a kid, a friend got his hands on an assortment of gauges from WWII era warplanes and we mounted them on a slab of plywood. Our “console” served variously as our aircraft or spaceship cockpit. Oh, what adventures we had. We actually crawled out of our craft and explored the countryside (in our backyards) or fought battles with the “Krauts” and aliens (other planets, please). Great exercise for our imaginations.

    Then, I watched my son play on his computer. Actually, I’ve spent some hours just watching him play on realistic displays of battlefields, alien planets, etc. Headsup displays of gun sights and crucial information mimic actual ones found in fighter jets today. Much better stuff than we had, but there’s no “backyard component” to the game. Probably because the game interface is far more varied and interesting than the ones we had.

    Who was better off? It’s hard to say. I dragged my children away from their electronics on occasion when they were growing up to go on adventures, sailing, camping, whatever. And, I’ve thought about our vastly different forms of play.

    The truth is that they live in a computer world. Most work is virtual and their play prepared them for it. Isn’t that what play is for?

    • Christina Carson

      Your point is well taken, and always in the back of my mind when I write a blog like this. Yes, the electronics prepare them for the more electronic based environments in which they work, but the one thing that has never changed is the need to be able to interact with fellow humans, and the environment and the dynamics required there can never be reproduced electronically. Nor do I think electronic playgrounds are necessary more interesting; they are more candy for the senses, but using less of the overall human being. Thus they fixate people in their heads making it increasingly difficult to have the most compelling of experiences for human beings, being present in the moment.Being present implies interacting with the reality your body is in, not held in the confines of your mind.

      • Bear with me. I’m speculating through observation. As you must know by now, I don’t play well with others. Never have. I’m too much of an observer and too passionate about things that many people find trivial. Thus, keeping people at arm’s length has been a way of life even though I grew up spending more time in the physical world. Thus, I speculate that I may have fared better with relationships in a virtual world. Probably not but it’s nice to pretend.

        On the other hand, watching my children and grandchildren grow up playing in a virtual world, I sense that they are better connected to their playmates than ever I was. Again, given the information in the first paragraph, that isn’t a good measure of their success. Still, they seem connected. Indeed, my daughter met her husband in such a virtual playground and I couldn’t have picked a better son-in-law if I had perused a catalog of them.

        That leads me to one last thought. Thousands of couples are meeting “on line” and marrying. Time will tell if this is more successful than traditional “adult playgrounds” – bars and the like.

        • Christina Carson

          Here’s a thought. Doing virtual activities together will never equate with engaging with life together. People could write back and forth to each other discussing war, for example, but back to back in the trenches is what has you engage with with that experience and each other. Real life happens in Reality. Virtual experiences take place in our minds. And most of our problems as human beings stem from our over dependence on, over involvement with what goes on in our minds, the stories, the fantasies, the conversations, none of which reflect what is actually happening around us. Anything that exacerbates that situation cannot, will not serve us in relating better to one another or the environment, or resolve the growing number of problems on this planet, but it will distract us from placing our attention where real help resides.

Thoughtful comments are always welcome!

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