the data of life

they look like they may have gone to church. she has perfectly applied makeup and beautiful jewelry. he has a pair of fancy sunglasses perched atop his head. it is a beautiful afternoon. a wonderful day for a husband and wife to get out and focus on each other. they are sitting in a coffee shop enjoying an afternoon caffeine boost. they occupy the corner table, cozy and secluded. the perfect opportunity for quiet conversation presents itself. Christmas music is playing in the background. they have been here for a long time. their attention is held captive – but not to each other. rather, they have devoted their attention to a small object with a touch screen in their hands. the only words that have been spoken (and yes, i know this because i have been eavesdropping) have pertained to what they see on the screen before them. they have barely even looked at each other.  they are enraptured – with their tiny-data-filled-miniature-computers.

what has happened to conversation? must we be plugged into our devices every second of every day in order to be able to function? whether it is obsessively scrolling through apps checking for the latest “in the know” information, or sequestering ourselves in a sonorous envelope of music, we have turned the ability to effectively and intimately interact with others into a lost art. in our effort to be “in the know” in the electronic, mimetic reflection of our world, we are missing the experience of knowing what is really happening in THIS moment, and with the person we are with.

we input so much of ourselves into our telephones, ipods, ipads, computers, and tablets. we choose the music we listen to, the applications that best serve our needs, and the information that enhances our experience of life. but what has happened into pouring ourselves into others? devoting our entire attention to being present in the moment and with the one we are with? what would happen if we looked into someone’s eyes as they speak, and discussed what was truly occurring in their world rather than in the world we have created in our data-boxes. would it be so difficult to focus on seeing someone? not just noticing them as they sit across from you, but truly SEEING them–listening to what they are saying, looking into the windows of their soul, and truly relishing the time that you have been given to spend with them.

by not giving our full attention to those who we are with, the time spent with them, has really only become more time that we spend with ourselves. our data-boxes so often fuel our self-obsession. there is a dichotomy – in seeking to broaden our minds and fill our lives with information about the world around us, we are in fact missing the world around us entirely. we are isolating ourselves in a self-centric world of self-reflective information. we are in fact narrowing our focus so that we only see the information that we have chosen to see. what about information that the literal world and the people in that world are seeking to give us – the way the sunset reflects on the water, the smile of a stranger, the way the clouds change in such short periods of time, a few encouraging words from your best friend, the excitement of your dog when you return from checking the mail. and what about the information that, in reality, we long to give to others? what about that deepest part of us that craves interaction on the most intimate and human levels? what have we missed in this moment, and this moment, because we have been plugged-in to a false reality?

i confess, that i am also guilty of this. and i am in NO WAY saying that i think that technology is evil, and should be sworn off entirely. in fact, this type of technology can serve us in marvelous ways – from pressing play on your playlist to power through a workout, or from using social networks to reconnect with friends lost long ago, technology can serve us in remarkable ways.

but let us be careful of not being entirely dependent on being plugged in to the electronic worlds that we have created for ourselves. they are, after all, only a mimetic reflection of your own realm anyway. so why not plug into your real life – into each moment that is given to you. because truly, each moment is a gift, not a guarantee.

so , every once in a while. run without your music and listen to your breath and the sound of your feet on the ground beneath you. rather than hanging out with a friend in the virtual realm, meet with them in person. and when you meet with them, leave your data-boxes alone. savor the sound, sight, touch, taste, and smell of their presence. sip your coffee, and absorb the beautiful experience of the information all around you.

Technology… the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it.  ~Max Frisch

The living moment is everything.  ~D.H. Lawrence


2 thoughts on “the data of life

  1. So true, and so well-said! My family and I had a conversation about this over Thanksgiving and how it’s so hard to get young people (not always young people, but that was the context of our conversation) to understand the importance of unplugging and actually engaging person-to-person with those around them. Even stepping back to not frame our lives within the context of the next Instagram photo or Twitter update or Facebook post or whatever it may be… just enjoying the moments we have for what we are, truly and DEEPLY experiencing them with all our five senses. Thanks for the great reminder!

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