Despite technological advances that should make life easier, allowing more time for relaxation and reflection, humans have if anything chosen to throw themselves even more fully into their frenzied activities as if avoiding contemplation was the actual aim of existence. Strange to say – but not as strange as it is – the modern mind actually resists complete mental health if it requires intimacy with its own thinking process. The apparently excruciating experience of present time consciousness is just a step too far. It’s as if the self is frantically covering itself up, afraid of being seen clearly without the blur of movement.
We may outwardly live a mundane existence but our minds go through quite fantastic experiences every day, in fact creating the fantastic as compensation for perceived routine. Technology has closed the gap between the frantic movement of the mind and its physical expression so that continuous entertainment and communication can now more fully correspond to our chaotic inner reality.
Society has become centered around the process of diversion, a mechanism automatic and almost industrial, particularly by the use of sound as it can be the background to all our activities. It’s become such a reflex that we hardly know we’re engaged in it. We can’t wait to escape from the present moment without realizing that it’s there that the real treasure of existence is found. We don’t actually need to rush around doing or pretending to be something – just to stay still and be a fully sentient being is a miracle and a reward by itself.
The easy availability of entertainment, interactive or passive, often in parallel with a super-abundance of food is a trap for the unwary. Technology may be essential as a tool for activity, information and enjoyment but its careless use can ultimately detract from the living experience. And just as with food most adults know this but are unable to do anything about it. Contrary to the crude narratives of popular entertainment it’s not what we run from that’s our greatest threat but what we run to.
Few as yet have learned to protect themselves from the daily assaults we willingly expose ourselves to. The mind too easily slips into the pattern of the addict who at great cost gets little in exchange for their addiction, using it only to fend off what is considered boredom.
The contradiction of evading the present moment is we don’t even fully enjoy our indulgences; often thinking of further pleasures we miss the one in front of us. Like a slippery bar of soap our delight cannot quite be fully squeezed.
Non-stop electronic consumption crowds out stillness and denies space for deeper thoughts to emerge. The opportunities to express oneself increase as any real meaning of that expression decreases. The result is inanity, exhaustion and a frustrating feeling that there’s something more being passed by and missed.
The blanket of babble is so complete that many don’t even know that an alternative exists. Words are useful tools but access to the state of wordlessness, at least for some part of the day, is vital to well-being, to remind us of our essential nature.
The truth is contentment and health is right here and now but we don’t want it, preferring our escapes to life as it actually is.
Most of us want the unrestricted pleasures of adulthood but reject the consequences that come with them. This craving for freedom without responsibility places us in a twilight world between child and adult, not fully one or the other but some under-formed hybrid flitting between the two and lacking the best qualities of either.
What is the attraction of hyperactivity? Is it a refuge for the mind from what is real and to be faced here and now? If so its refuge is false as reality will surely be there waiting when the distraction is over. We call it an “escape” from reality but is it not also an assault on it? Have we or anyone else ever beaten reality, pounded it into submission in this way? On the contrary reality is the undefeated champion and certain to remain so. Effectively we just buy time and at the heavy cost of our well-being, composure, even a sane calibration to existence itself.
Despite the marvels of electronics it’s important to remember that the most fantastic and capable device in the universe is the human brain.
As a first line of defense we can ring-fence technology to a purely utilitarian level, making full use of its convenience and capabilities but guarding against intrusion and dependence. The criteria being: does this add or subtract from life in the long run?
Work against addiction in all its many forms. Pull the plug, disconnect the cable, avoid social events that cater to addictions, do whatever needs to be done. Short circuit the mechanism of compulsion. Just as the branches of fruit trees are pruned for a heavier harvest so our unproductive activities are chopped off to increase our energies.
The impulse mechanism that drives our furious movement can be disabled by slowing it down enough to fully perceive, giving us a chance to freely choose to end it.
The realization that our senses adjust over time for their degree of stimulation – as eyes do for bright or dim lighting – will make indulgence less attractive. To have more gratification now is inevitably to have less later and vice versa. The automatic process of sensory accommodation ensures that all our frenzied pleasure seeking is in vain and at the cost of a narrowed window on the world.
Living and activity can be made as simple as is consistent with effectiveness. Simplicity emerges from selectively negating the complex.