Short-cuts make for long delays
During a lunch-date, my friend once mentioned how she tries to raise her 6-year old son to be ‘human’ before he goes out into the world. She said that she doesn’t guard him from external influences, but attempts to raise him in this world, dealing with the ups and downs of human interaction, before the digitised virtual reality sucks him in.
Her sister’s children – on the other hand – can’t be dirty for too long. Their smartphones and ipads are practically sewed to their limbs, and to get their attention, you’d have more luck sending a Whatsapp or Facetime than looking them in the eye and talking to them.
While sitting in the lounge, fixated to the flat-screen, one of my friends’ nieces was playing outside on the jungle-jim (already a monumental event), and fell (which is expected, especially when your only reference of gravity is Angry Birds). My friend’s son immediately dropped the i-pad he had been borrowing from his cousin, and went outside to “see if she was alright”, with her brothers, oblivious, still lost in the virtual world.
Are We Present?
There’s a whole lot of articles on being present. Mindfulness meditation is trending (for now), and there are countless blogs (ironically) on ‘switching off’. We are all too familiar with the gains of a connected world, and with the dangers of being ‘on-line all the time’.
It’s tough, though. I find it hard to sit still, and it’s even a bit awkward to go to the toilet when my phone’s battery is dead: sitting in that cubicle, void from continuous communication, feels a bit like a time-warp back to the 80s.
Where Are Our Children?
Hats off to my friend. As a single mom, she’s doing a better job at raising her six-year old than many couples are:
He knows how to have compassion for others;
He can climb a jungle gym, and disengage as easily from the virtual world as he can enjoy it;
He has fun watching a film, but not at the expense of the flowers and friends right next to him;
This is a six-year old that I can entrust my country’s future to.
How Do We Measure Progress?
Progress is usually noted by our advances: how many diseases we cure and how high our buildings reach. We feel that we are getting better when we are quicker, more efficient and more convenient.
But these things come at a cost. If we don’t have adequate foundations: character, kindness, social awareness and compassion, our skyscrapers of progress collapse under the weight of a society that has been uprooted from the real world.
It’s happened to Babylon.
It’s happened to Egypt.
It’s happened to Rome.
And, according to the latest studies on global climate & resources, it’s happening to us.
My dad is a 62 year old neurosurgeon. Needless to say, he grew up in a time much different to my own, and it’s been an honour and privilege to assist him in theater. I am the first to advocate new, shiny apps to make life simpler and more efficient. Yet, as I watch how he diligently, and meticulously operates, with care, patience and endurance, it inspires me to embed these same principles in my own character.
Times are changing quicker than most of us can keep up with, but the same things that has held humanity together a 1000 years ago, will hold us together now. We would be wise to pay particular attention to these foundations.
When the pressure overwhelms, and I am tempted to drown out the noise with memes, Facebook, Youtube and series, I’ll try to take a few lessons from the 6-year old, and 60-year old:
Let the real world in.
Let it deal its blows.
Let it train me to develop resilience, grace and love. Not just for my sake, but for those who are to follow.
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