The war on mindlessness
I promised myself. I’m not going to write about this subject.
But last night, I was walking around Green Lake on a beautiful summer eve. The late day sun was peeking through the clouds. The air was warm and lovely. As I strolled around the lake, listening to birds sing their goodnight song and enjoying the canopy of green all around me, I saw an army of fellow walkers, eyes glued to their smartphones. Why was everyone fixed to their phones? They barely looked up to make sure that they wouldn’t walk into the lake!
I couldn’t help myself. I peeked at their phones as they passed by, and lo and behold, they weren’t texting their beloved. They weren’t looking at Facebook or Instagram. They weren’t reading about the latest news of the world. They were capturing Pokémon’s!
I am not talking about little kids! They are too smart to give up an opportunity to chase birds. I am talking about grown adults—although mostly on the younger side. I decided that I was either becoming totally irrelevant or everyone else has lost their minds.
What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.
There is a war going on in our modern world—and it’s not just about radical jihadists. It’s about mindfulness and mindlessness.
On the one hand, there are growing ranks of adults practicing yoga, (there is a yoga studio on every street corner) an ancient Indian practice of mind and body coordination. More and more individuals are recognizing the value of meditation and awareness. On the other hand, so many teens and adults have their heads bowed down to their smartphones (or what really appears to be dumbphones) that neck strain is becoming a common problem.
It’s not necessary to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a place for digital communication, taking and making calls, reading the news of the day, or keeping up with our friends and family through photos and text—even playing video games. I am not a total geezer.
However, these devices are seductive. It’s easy to have your free time sucked away by these screens. But what is far worse than wasting precious moments of your life is losing your awareness of now, of the world around you, and of the importance of real communication. I see couples at restaurants, on park benches, and strolling staring into their phones rather than into each other’s eyes. They are communicating with their friends in distance places with acronyms— like LOL, smiley faces, and the ubiquitous, meaningless “likes” on Facebook, rather than actually talking with the person they are sitting with.
Walking in nature is an opportunity to open your senses to the world around you—to feel the wonder of being alive. It can bring us back to ourselves. Capturing Pokémon’s that follow your feet is descending into a chasm of mindlessness.
It’s time to take back our minds, our senses and ourselves. It’s time to focus on what’s important rather than what is simply distracting.