Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Distraction and the Human Condition

A kind of a follow-up to Non-digital Reading.  Building on from that topic.

I happened upon Zach Hoag, in the way that one stumbles upon writers online.  [I clicked from some other site I cannot recall and, thus, cannot give credit for my discovery.]  One way he has described himself: "I'm part Spirit-filled evangelical, part skeptical New Englander. Simultaneously on-fire and frozen-chosen." Some of the people I enjoy most in this life admit that they are a bundle of contradiction.  That's all right.  Go read Chapter VI of Chesterton's Orthodoxy, if you want to ponder the topic of Christian paradox.

As a way to simplify life, as well as help out the budget, Zach and his wife decided to do: Kill Your Data Plan: An Experimental Peace-Hack.  They downgraded their data plan and turned off Cellular Data, meaning that the full-blown smartphone is available in case of emergency, but no longer ever-present.

I appreciate where he points out that "some of the criticism is overblown" about the wifi world and our seeming disconnectedness with the world immediately in front of us.  I don't have to search my memory hard to remember the world before smartphones.  I carried a book everywhere I went.  Commuters read newspapers on the train.  Runners and walkers listened to music on Walkmans as they exercised.  Families watched movies on the TV.  It is not as if the we sat around discussing Kierkegaard when, suddenly, the iPhone sprung up from the bowels of hell to keep us from being Deep and Meaningful with strangers in doctors' waiting rooms.

Furthermore, I believe that distraction is the human condition. The 1950s, the 1870s, the 1490s, 1587BC . . . if you could time travel, you'd find people being both less-than-productive and easily distracted.  No one was ever on-task 100% of the time in the days before electricity. 

In fact, humans have always sought silence and disconnectedness as something separate from daily routine.  The quest for silence goes back as far as ancient philosophers and continues through to today, in varying religious and spiritual traditions.  This proves that silence and meditation need to be pursued; they don't come easily.  If Pythagoras had to preach silence, and St. John of the Cross felt the need to write about it quite a bit, and even Jesus had to retreat up mountainsides to be alone in prayer, then something tells me busyness isn't unique to the modern world.

As a person whose nature is drawn to quiet and silence more than busyness, I read with enthusiasm other people's journeys into simplicity.  That's why I would click on a link titled "Kill Your Data Plan."  And the way I approach others' stories is more along the lines of inspirational/informational rather than prescriptive.  Why?  Because each person's path is unique.  I can be inspired by others without needing to recreate their scenarios for my particular state in life.

I can respect equally those who unplug from technology as I do those who are online all day for their employment.  But it's true that the mere act of unplugging does not guarantee distraction-free quiet time.  I knew a person who was vehemently anti-television, but she had this inability to sit still that drove my comparatively passive nature crazy.  Taking what I've learned about personality and temperament since the time I knew her, part of now me wonders if her dislike of TV had something to do with an unacknowledged or unrecognized aversion to simply sitting still for even a short amount of time.  Zach Hoag isn't anti-technology.  In fact, technology is part of his ministry.  However, he recognized where it became a preoccupation and took the steps to reduce the distraction.

Where am I going with this?  Yes, I believe in the importance of unplugging from the digital world.  Daily unplugging.  However, to blame technology on distraction is to, well, get distracted from the main problem:  I don't think we are good at silence, regardless of the century in which we were born.  Let us inspire each other with our stories at carving simplicity into daily life.  Here's a reminder of my thoughts on the subject.

No comments:

Post a Comment