The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Living with an IT professional subjects me to much more electronic “magic” than I would ever have in my world otherwise. We have lights on an app that I can turn up-down-on-off by a simple voice command. We have a Ring doorbell, also connected to an app, that detects people and motion via a video feed. We have Alexa in our living room, complete with alarms and reminders, and most recently, the ability to resume whatever TV show we are currently binge watching (nine seasons of Suits at the moment). Alexa tells stories, jokes, gives weather reports and instantly settles any disagreements for which there is an actual correct answer. She’ll also play music by artists I remember from my days of albums and cd’s and make recommendations based on what seems to keep me tuned in. (Creepy how she knows that).
But it’s not just at home. I can text while I drive using only my voice. I can make calls and listen to books while I drive too. With the touch of a button my car will maintain a safe distance between me and the car ahead of me. Another button keeps me centered in the lane I’m in and if I drift, will automatically correct me back to center. I have heated seats and a back-up camera and lights on my side mirrors to detect if someone is in my blind spot. I was gifted a health/activity/fitness tracker and it logs everything about my activity, day and night. Which begs the daily questions: Have I walked enough? Slept enough? Is the quality of those things meeting some standard?
But for all this convenience what am I actually getting in return? Is the trade-off worth it? Am I safer? Healthier? Happier?
I started really thinking about this on my walk the other morning and then on a long drive. I’ll admit I love some technology. Honestly, without GPS I’d probably never go anywhere unfamiliar.and most everywhere I do go, I bring my camera (or two or three) along. I use photography as a creative outlet, but with digital technology I wind up deleting thousands more photos than I keep. The question then becomes: what am I missing around me when my eye has become one with the viewfinder?
In another nod to convenience I listen to a lot of books. On my long drive the other day I listened (for the third and fourth times) to Pema Chödrön’s When Things Fall Apart. I love this book so much. It nudges me back to a place of perspective. It reminds me that if emptiness is what I seek, then all convenience achieves is to further deepen the illusion of time. Time wasted, spent, killed, tracked, saved, accounted for.
Now, is the only time.
“Now is the only time. How we relate to it creates the future. In other words, if we’re going to be more cheerful in the future, it’s because of our aspiration and exertion to be cheerful in the present. What we do accumulates; the future is the result of what we do right now”. – Pema Chödrön
The bigger question I grapple with is this: if what we give our attention to thrives, am I letting convenience play too big a role?
I’m leaning into practice and pulling away from mindless doomscrolling. Every time I log into Facebook these days it’s like a poke in the eye. When I’m tempted to “check in” there, I’ll grab pen and paper instead. I’ll do a drawing or doodle. Maybe I’ll write a paragraph, a page or a letter. Distraction is a learned behavior after all. In this time of letting go and making room all I really need to do is relax into what is and do what is in front of me to do.
Thank god for laundry and dog walks, dust and dishes.
If you’re reading this I would love to hear your thoughts on technology. Are you better because of it? How might your life be different without it?
I’m aware of it’s overwhelming presence in my life. I don’t think it makes me better or smarter, safer or happier. I accept that presence, but in the only moment that matters, I am free of expectation of it.
Be here now.
In this very moment.
And this one.
And this one.
And this one …