But email, in my view, also contributes to the haste, he thoughtlessness, and the artificial urgency that increasingly characterise the world. […] We are suffocating ourselves. We are undercutting out contemplative powers. We could even be, ironically, impeding progress. […] Modern technology is racing forward with little examination or control.*
You might not need more exposure to the new. Instead you might pay to see what’s already around you.**
Anxiety is on the up, the dis-ease, some say, that will characterise the 21st century.
Once upon a time, people would worry about sowing their crops and whether someone – some bandit or invading army – would come along and take the crop for themselves. Peace was to be able to enjoy the fruit of their own labours, to sit beneath their vines and fig trees.
Most of us in the West today don’t have to worry about such things and yet our anxieties remains and, we’re told, are increasing.
Rebecca Solnit writes about how the Industrial Revolution broke up families as it institutionalised and fragmented labour, and even our leisure activities can be industrial:
‘the gym is now doing the same thing, often in the same place, for leisure.’^
We have industrial spaces for getting fitter faster and further with machines that take us beyond who we presently physically are, away from the sunshine, fresh air, natural surroundings with all its diversity that we used to think of as being good for us:
‘Build of your imaginings a bower in the wilderness ere you build a house within the city walls. […] Have you beauty, that leads the heart from things fashioned of wood and stone to the holy mountain? Tell me, have you these in your houses?’^^
Solnit’s observations help us to see that was has been happening to us has been happening for some time.
It’s not something we’ve recently invented with our latest technologies: social media and communications that make it possible to be tethered everywhere and at all times, bending the human body and lifestyle to suit it rather than the other way around – yet possibly most dangerous because of its incredible speed and growth.
We’ve lost much more than the outside world, though. We’ve also lost the inside world with the kinds of disciples, rituals, patterns and habits that allowed us to know both ourselves and what we can do and to feel as though we can develop these.
We feel rushed along by the technology – what Alan Lightman points to in his remark about our inability to examine or control – so we say we have no time for these things that may allow us to connect what is disconnected in our lives. Technology is insidious; it is so much a part of our lives that it is hard to know where it begins and ends when it comes to being invisible and controlling our lives
Slow habits and practices allow us to develop an important counterweight so we may become who and what we are at our best: contemplating creatures:
‘Deep down you desire the freedom to live the life you would love.’*^
At the moment, I’m working on an idea that might be the beginning of the counterweight we need to bring to the digital life. If you would like to know more about this in the form of an online course – one way technology can be brilliant – then drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(*From Alan Lightman’s Dance for Two.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: What do you see?)
(^From Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust.)
(^^From Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet.)
(*^From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)