The modern world has become a hub of communication. Everywhere I go I see people zoned out and staring at their smart phones, checking emails on the go, updating their “social media” page or Blog, communicating through text and email etc., etc. It is everywhere we go, it encompasses the vast majority of how a great deal of us especially younger generations spend their time. I recently witnessed (on Facebook) people sending their “friend” condolences for a lost loved one as a post on the persons page!
What happened to a phone call or even going to see that person? What is going on in our “modern,” “progressive” world?!! We are becoming more and more “out of touch” the more “communication” we have! Don’t get me wrong; their is much to be gained and a beauty to all we have at the touch of our fingers, but where do we draw the line between convenience and compassion?
What is communication? According to a generic dictionary, it is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.” Over the years, our “common process” has changed drastically! This has led to, in my opinion, a breakdown in our interaction as humans.
I wrote a song about it recently, inspired by everyday life here in New York and a powerful documentary I watched on “Aokigahara” (The Suicide Forrest in Japan). I catch myself being pulled into the “matrix” that is smart phones and the instant gratification that is the internet. I have literally stopped what I was doing and turned the phone off, looked up and had a moment of clarity. If we are living our lives attached to the internet and connected, what are we missing or lacking in our everyday life? People “fall in love,” get into fights, send condolences, break up a relationship — all over emails and texts?!
Where is the physical interaction of; looking into someones eyes, touching them, seeing how their facial expressions change, how their body language speaks on a level words can not express in written or verbal form?
I can’t imagine how much miscommunication is going on in our society on a daily basis. Stop and think about a text or an email gone wrong and it turns into an argument. It is impossible to convey with simply words; words are merely a vehicle to our emotions and intentions. I think about all the messed up things that go on in our world, like the recent slew of school shootings for example and how much of that is due to miscommunication, hurt feelings or a misunderstanding that led to a total and complete breakdown.
Granted, sick people are sick people, but strong emotions can lead to momentary insanity especially in people with pre-exisiting conditions.
Let me take a step back here as I can easily go off on a rant. I am not saying get rid of your phone or computer. I am not taking away the fact that we can communicate to people all over the world with the push of a few buttons. Technology is amazing, it truly is. But what is more amazing is our actual physical interactions as humans. How good does it feel when you miss someone and you finally get to see them face to face and hug them, smell them…look into their eyes? It is amazing; there is nothing to compare to it!
I often spend my time out in nature, hiking or taking my bike on long trail rides to balance out my city life and my touring life. On one such day, I was out walking in the middle of the woods and I encountered a couple walking towards me in the distance. If any of you reading this are familiar with the “unspoken” trail etiquette, it is that you usually acknowledge people you see and at the very least say “Hello” or have a quick chat about how beautiful the scenery is.
Most likely, you will have at least that in common with fellow hikers or nature lovers. However, on this occasion, the hikers as they approached made every effort to avoid eye contact and almost pretended like I didn’t exist.
Mind you, there is no one else around for miles and the only way to get around me is to practically rub up against me on the trail. I smiled at them and said “Hello;” they didn’t respond and went on their way. I just chuckled to myself and then thought about it for a moment. I am quite used to this behavior when I am in the middle of a city…the irony was not lost on me and it inspired me to write this column. If you have ever been to a major city, you can walk the streets for hours passing by hundreds even thousands of people and not one of them will say hello (in fact most of them are probably walking around with their eyes on their phone).
This behavior is not shocking to most people; it is what it is. I can imagine trying to walk in downtown New York City and saying hello to everyone I passed, I would most likely have someone eventually tell me to shut up or most just simply shrug me off as a crazy person. However, out of all the hiking and mountain climbing I have done, 99.9% of the time people will acknowledge me and say “Hello”…kind of blows my mind…the less people, the more communication?
Think about that for a second: city filled with people all with in three feet of each other and for the most part no one acknowledges each other. Out in the middle of the woods, on a trail miles away from a city with just a handful of people around, and almost everyone acknowledges each other.
As per usual, I am writing a short story so let me wrap this up. I will leave you with this brief thought. My father (who is a very wise, learned man) has this term he uses (when we philosophize about daily life) “having a moment.” “Having a Moment” is when time seemingly slows down and you are existing and feeling a strong sense of being “alive.” It could be taking time to watch the clouds drift by, watching a spider weave its web, watching the sun set or rise. It is the little things we seemingly take for granted that happen all around us. So what or who are you taking for granted in your daily life?
In closing, all I am saying is take time to be self-aware, make an effort to have more intimacy with the world around you, the people you love and enjoy those moments of raw existence that are free from the constraints or our fast-paced “modern” world. What really matters and is the “stuff of life” is quite often the simple moments we have when we stop to acknowledge life in all its forms.
Take time and use it to enrich and fulfill your existence; don’t let another day go by with out having a “moment.” Perhaps smile or say “Hi” to a total stranger. After all we, all are strangers to some one.
As always, thanks for reading… See you on the road, and don’t hesitate to say hello, perhaps we can share “a moment!”
By the way, here’s that documentary on “Aokigahara.” I highly recommend watching it; it is sad and very profound!
For previous installments of “Check Your Head,” go here.