Whether it’s on a grander ethical scale or in a more day-to-day sense, we’re always catching up with technology: we can only figure out how to deal with it once it’s already there. Today, it’s the same with the proliferation of the steady stream of stimuli from smart devices: many people, including me, are still figuring out how to best respond to the information flow[i]; having such a device at the ready at all times makes it unnecessary to ever be bored.
Coincidentally, I was having trouble with being bored – not in the sense that I was bored, and that that troubled me, but in the sense that I hadn’t been truly, calmly bored often enough recently.
Anyway – I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s something that bored me.
I had lost my keys, and was waiting for my roommate to come home so he could let me in. In the meantime, I sat on a wooden bench near my house. The bench was one in a series of benches, all organized in a straight line. On either side, tall trees formed something of a cozy canopy.
Now, once again I’m going to stop myself right there, because that right there (^) is exactly the kind of writing I am not used to doing – describing the material of the benches, explaining their positions, elaborating on the flora and fauna of the locale – all that jazz. I suspect that my lack of propensity for this kind of mindful writing, in which there’s a real consciousness for the physical world around the subject, is buttressed by my phone use as well as by my studying philosophy. I think this is because both are often very much concerned with things that are not in your immediate surroundings, and because focusing on these things transports you away from those surroundings. Even though your boring immediate surroundings may often be a pretty good place to be.
You’re four years old and you’re sitting in a park with your parents. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Your feet are just on the edge of the picnic blanket, your heels touching the fabric, your toes the nearly dried grass (there was dew in the morning; it’s very sunny now). In the distance, you hear other kids yell and the sound of someone kicking a ball, the sound of that same ball landing way too far.
You’re twelve, waiting in the dentist’s office for a routine checkup. It’s eight o’clock on a Saturday, and you usually don’t get up this early on the weekend, so you’re still a bit foggy. Outside, it’s softly raining against the windows.
You’re twenty-two, you’re writing an article for Writer’s Block Magazine. It’s sunny and you have both your windows open. You’ve just eaten breakfast (cottage cheese with honey baked granola, slices of banana and a bit of strawberry jam) but you’ve taken a bit too much, so your tummy is only just on the full side of still-okay. Just outside, there is a bench, sitting in a row of other benches, cozily covered by a canopy of tree-leaves.
[i] I note that this is not meant as a whiny complaint against smart devices themselves – in fact, I love being able to reach so many people with such ease, and it’s a luxury to have a radio, a music player and a photo camera . This is more of a people-catching-up-thing.