I happen to quite like technology.
I love that, a few years ago, I could sit in my apartment in Istanbul and see my dad’s face from his home in the US, and now I can sit in my apartment in the States and see his face from an albergue in Spain. I love that I can keep in contact with friends I made in India, Thailand, Spain and South America. I love social media, blogs and personal websites as mean of self-expression, community-building and information-sharing.
But when I read stories like this, or see two teens sitting next to each other on a park bench silently hunched over their phones or the man in the car next to me texting at a stop sign or the kid in yoga class who sets his phone face up next to his mat for the entirety of our practice, I feel something kind of like heartbreak.
We’ve talked for decades about the fear of robots taking over; I think when we imagined it, we thought of a forceful takeover—a violent battle in which we all fight bravely for our freedom.
Looking around, though, it seems pretty apparent that we are simply handing that freedom over.
There aren’t sinister machines growing legs and turning against us, and we certainly aren’t running for our lives.
And here’s the part that makes all this as upsetting as it is: we’re not actually dumb people with smart phones.
We are brilliant, powerful creatures with the capacity for immense focus and astounding creativity.
We just, quite understandably, are desperate for ways to escape the heaviness of our reality.
Technology itself is innocent, and can so frequently be an asset, but when we sink into hypnotism, we give away our power. Our compulsions, addictions, and distractions are never anything more than an honest and childlike longing for fullness and joy.
As Louis C.K. illustrates so clearly, “we need to build an ability to just be ourselves and not be doing something.” This is a natural human state, but it can be scary as hell. It allows for the bottomless cesspool of our inner world to have a voice for a moment.
In other words, it gives us time to face “that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re alone.”
He says, about texting while driving: “People are willing to risk taking a life and ruining their own because they don’t want to be alone for a second.” Ouch. Our general unwillingness to let things be as they are is astounding.
But what if we gave in? What if we acknowledged that emptiness is natural and allowed, and that sadness is inevitable? I think the payoff is worthwhile; indeed, there is more to living than just feeling “kinda satisfied with our products.”
So I’m making a pact—want to join me? Let’s band together and agree to find some bravery; let’s sit with our sadness and allow our loneliness and boredom and angst and nihilism to exist.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renee Picard
Photo: Wikipedia / YouTube