For the longest time, I’d been reluctant to join facebook. For years people have been sending friend requests and encouraging me to sign up….every yogi on the planet is on Facebook…. don’t you know that!? But every time I went to sign up I felt this huge wall of resistance in myself. Finally, I decided to look at that, and in unraveling the spool a little I realized some resistance was for obvious reasons….resistance to a mass marketed culture, resistance to becoming the norm, resistance to the cliché’ of superficialities….but beneath resistance (which actually strengthens the side being resisted) I found a deep sense of loss, and my own feelings of sadness about the unexamined use of technology in our societies. Facebook was just the symbol.
A few weeks ago I arrived at an appointment a little early; at the same time the person I was meeting was running a little late. With 15 minutes or so to wait I decided to simply be. The chair was comfortable, the waiting area silent. A stream of light crossed several plants glistening the movement of air particles and creating a dancing shape of shadows against the wall. The walls were full of art. A large oil painting portrayed a vast golden wheat field swept against a midnight sky; it hung framed, next to a modern piece of mixed media revealing wisps of female form and the subtleties of feminine essence.
As I gazed around the room feasting my eyes, I was stirred to wonder about the artists, imagining their hands moving towards colour, texture and shape, sweeping strokes with more or less intensity; I wondered how they felt as their images came to life; what called them to create such beauty; how long did it take; who were they? I felt the moment of exchange between me and the art as a gift, perhaps even an offering of sorts, in the same way a gracious host welcomes a friend into their home after a long journey; the artist’s gifts welcomed me in.
I know the moment could just as easily have been lost to the technology sitting in my purse. Last week at my sons soccer game I watched a two year old navigate an ipad faster than most teens could. The child’s mom, unconcerned, was simply on her phone. Perhaps some parents are aware of the neurological conditioning they are allowing when their child forms the repetitive movements, thought processes and feelings necessary to interact with a machine. I doubt she was. These few parents likely know that the machine is conditioning their child to think, act and feel in relation to it. Perhaps they are ok with that in small doses. They know the machine re-enforces relating to it and that re-enforcement enhances confidence in their child, control and ego development, albeit, in a completely narcissistic fashion…. especially in a child.
I trust they consider that while their child is pre-occupied with the machine they are not developing the neurological networks necessary for their own self awareness, imaginal realms and unique places of creativity. Surely they know that while relating to the machine their child is not fully interacting with other children, playing outside, moving about frequently and freely or becoming comfortable with these choices for a later date. Of course they must know that positively re-enforced, repetitive, habits formed in youth, lead to addictions and addictions are habits exceptionally hard to break at any point in life. Certainly they understand that addictions interfere with normal life functions, including relationships, hooking people into cycles of action no longer within their own control. In yoga it is understood that these habitual, addictive patterns, samscara, are grooves of suffering. It is known that these empty Illusions lead us nowhere and need to be understood for what they are.
Surely these conscious parents are aware that the machine encourages speed, quick decision making and less integrative thought processes also contributing to short attention spans and common place behavioral disorders such as Attention Deficit Disorder and ADHD. They must know that the machine is designed to make money for corporations. That the machine has been described as ruthless, hard, limitless, speed driven, unaware and genuinely unrelational in the moment. They must have been informed that school systems are implementing technology more and more and once again that because machines are designed for corporate profit that they as parents are complicit in allowing the use of their child to this end. They are aware that their child is being neurologically conditioned to desire and crave the machine itself and that that machine, empty of prana (natural life force), will never actually fill the child or adults authentic needs.
Therefore out of love for their child and to mitigate these potentials these aware parents limit the time their child can spend with technology. Probably it is the best anyone can do in a technology driven culture where addictions are main stream. With main stream in mind I doubt that most parents are very concerned or aware of the machines perils in their own lives or the lives of their children’s. And what I doubt even more is that most people are aware of their own inner machine.
We all have the machine within us. If this were not so we could not have created the machine in the first place. This is neither all bad nor all good. Like when I discovered Facebook could be a wonderful tool for grassroots movements or promoting groups, activities and social actions of value rather than simply superficial connections and self promoting hits. But without the first psychological step of understanding and relating to our own inner machine and our own inner qualities of hardness, ruthlessness, speed driveness, limitlessness, mechanical, non-relational, selves we fall victim to the machine. Without this first psychological awareness of ourselves we are victim to the outer machine and use of the outer machine strengthens our inner machine and soon a cycling positive feedback loop, (strengthened neurological conditioning) creates an addiction.
As with any addiction there is loss. And these losses I found are the root of my sadness. Everyday I see them, read about them or encounter a situation where technology has usurped the human and made him or her less. Less children play outside, make their own games or can concentrate long enough to fully engage the moment. There is a loss of connection to nature as people listen to ipods, text or stroll with phones attached to their heads. There is a loss of listening as people are conditioned to move on, get going, be efficient or get back to their machine. There is a loss of feeling connection and embodiment as machines ask us to pay attention to them, not to ourselves, and this loss of feeling keeps people disconnected from themselves, each other and nature. There is less presence in the moment as machines condition us to do rather than to be. There is a loss of interest in relating to real people because real people are more complicated, less easily controlled, less predictable and outside machine conditioned comfort zones. Ironically, there is loss of time as machines tie us to them demanding attention while taking more than they give. That loss of time is felt or perceived because the machine uses our energy but it does not re-fill the matter of our humanness in kind. It does not offer what a gracious host offers after a long journey or an artist gives with a gift of creation. There is a life force (prana) in organic matter that gives more to us than it takes. This sustenance of life offers to us a nurturing relationship, a fullness and bounty of life. The machine is not this. The machine is an entirely different matter.
…over the creeds and masterpieces….the machine appeared. In the distance singing to itself. Of money. Its song was the web they were caught in. Men and women. Together. The villages were as flies, to be sucked empty. God secreted. A tear. Enough, enough, he commanded. But the machine looked at him and went on singing. poet R.S. Thomas