We were recently without electricity for four days as a result of Hurricane Ophelia. There was a very unusual silence in both my home and workspace. It was more the visual silence I became aware of. By day two there were almost none of the intoxicating screens that fill our homes, workspaces and our hands. I observed the anxiety and stress many people experienced when their device battery was below 20% (in the red).
In this enforced silence, we didn’t have what Nicholas Carr calls “the interruption system known as the net”. And that got me thinking about the effects of digitisation in our lives and how many of us are influenced by the repetitive, intense, interactive, addictive stimuli. We are on information overload and just like these devices; we are “always on”.
This seems to be part and parcel of professional and personal life today. Nicholas Carr fears that the Silicon Valley Tech companies are actively “creating a society of compulsive, easily manipulated screen junkies”. Apple research data shows that the average iPhone owner uses the device 80 times a day.
Arianna Huffington says that people take better care of their smart phones than they do of themselves, “if your smart phone battery goes below 30% you start to panic, but if you, yourself are run down you ignore it”.
All this makes me wonder about how this affects our capacity to be present, to relate, to think with others and our ability to attend to one another. Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us that
If you love someone,
the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.
We live in an age where multi-tasking is lauded as a great skill to possess. Women are praised for being “better” at it than men. All of us are reportedly getting better at multi-functioning. We give partial attention to any number of things, but full attention to very little. Seneca, the roman Philosopher wisely said
To be everywhere is to be nowhere.
Take Time to Pause:
- How does my attachment to digital devices prevent me from being more present to myself and others?
- What practical steps can I take to detach from my digital devices and become more present to myself and others today – in this moment?
“The arising of Presence is no longer a luxury;
it’s a necessity for the survival of humanity.”
One thought on “Presence (Part I)”
This is a clear and opportune message. As we move into the season for giving ‘presents’, I am sure that presence is always preferable to presents.