Realigning Priorities

May 10, 2013

I have a challenge for you: Limit your total personal Internet use (cell, computer and tablet) to one hour tomorrow. Think it’s easy? I’ve got one more caveat for you: You only get that hour in one location (home, cafe, whatever). That’s every text, every call and every poke on Facebook. Let me know the result by commenting here. And . . . go.

Why? Well, I am seeing an amazing thing in New Zealand . . . people talking, people playing with their kids, people looking up at the sky, people eating without a device sitting on the table, people not plugged in at every moment. I’ll prove it. Here is a photo of the mirrored cafe ceiling:

Like Where's Waldo? Bonus points if you can find me.

Like Where’s Waldo? Bonus points if you can find me.

In addition, I counted a few minutes worth of drivers and not one was texting while barely looking up. Yes, I have observed people walking around talking on their phones but it’s the minority. I even made eye contact (remember that) with over a dozen people in the last five minutes. I’m baffled. It’s like life exists for these Kiwis. Huh.

I’ll call myself out first. I’m a text, talk, walk and “multitask” offender. My dear brother can testify. In fact, momentary panic set in last night when I saw, “59 minutes and 50 seconds of your daily wifi allowance remains” as I logged in at my accommodation. “What?! Daily?” I thought. No ding, brrrring, vvvvrrrrr, notification-a-palooza? I felt alone, I felt jolted and I even felt a hint of judgment.

Why? I have become oddly accustomed to seeing my world through a four-inch screen. I was constantly looking down not ahead. I was looking to a device to gauge things not my inner processor (a.k.a. intuition). And here’s the thing, I’m still adjusting. I posted, pinged and messaged like a mad woman for the hour I was allotted.

Now, I’m typing and watching the rain fall. Instead of headphones, I hear birds and laughter. Gotta say, as a writer, umbrellas are fun little microcosms to watch and, attention Phoenix friends, people don’t actually melt in the rain. Funnier still, the cafe is filled with books, conversation and sipping. I’m the only soul on a laptop. Again, huh.

I suspect our “civilized” priorities are askew. Remember the principle of want vs. need? It’s a childhood tool we learn to help us retain awareness. In order to help the world hope, it seems I need to refresh us all, myself included, on how and where to focus. You have to have a shred of attention in order to exercise empathy, be present with those who are hurting and seek your bliss. I can tell you that technology is amazing, useful and a blessing. I can also tell you that digitized reality can distract us from the heart of humanity.

Here are a few photos of life unplugged:

Park on Devonport coastline

Park on Devonport coastline

My furry companion at the cafe

My furry companion at the cafe

Reflecting on the beauty of life

Reflecting on the beauty of life

I know dialing down instead of up is tough. I’m here for you. Perhaps wifi can begin to stand for “we invest fully in” living with presence. Here’s hoping.

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