As I mentioned in the last post, over the next few months, I will be looking at the hidden dangers of our new technology and what all this information and technology is doing to our minds, our hearts and our spirit. Many people in my psychotherapy practice talk about not being truly in their lives, feeling that they are just a step outside of what is happening to them, as if they can’t get inside their own experience. People in our society feel as if they are living through a narrator and can’t break through the veil that separates them from their own life. The reasons for this pervasive feeling are manifold and yet there is a common theme that runs throughout. We are constantly trying to solidify our experience, to pin it down and make it lasting. We reject the truth that experience is forever in flux, that it comes and goes and lives and dies with each moment. Rather than living our experience while it is happening, we are busy narrating our experience to ourselves in order to be able to relay it later, to communicate it, to have it in some kind of structure. The moment is not lived so much as it is organized and described. The idea is that once our mind has pinned down our experience, it can and will be lived later (when it is not happening). In this system, it is our mind that is doing the living for us. Our mind enters each new moment with the objective to organize and put language around what is happening. As a result, we end up with a lot of descriptions of our life, but without a sense of having lived it. In short, we send in a reporter to report to us on our life, in place of our getting to walk through it ourselves. We hear about the dance but we don’t actually get to dance. At the end of the day, there is some I that does not live. So… what does all this have to do with technology? Technology is strengthening our already prevalent tendency to live through the reporter, the mind, the organizer of our life and thus, to intensify the distance between us and our experience. When I attend my daughters’ events: plays, dance recitals, concerts etc., more than half of the parents are watching/participating in the experience through their smart phones. They are recording the event so as to have it, to own it as something solid, to be enjoyed and experienced… later, not now. Technology is encouraging us to live through the veil of our internal reporter, to use the moment when life is happening to record it, possess it, make sure that we have it forever. But sadly, when experience is lived through the internal reporter, we never get to have it, to feel like it is ours, cellularly, because we never really lived it, not when it was alive. We weren’t there for it, in it, and being in it is the prerequisite for feeling like we are living life. When we record our life through technology, we have a life technologically, but the felt sense is of not having a life. We show off our pictures but internally we feel hollow, as if we ourselves missed out on the the experience. So everyone else gets to enjoy it, but what about us? With internal ownership of our life, we may not get to display anything later to our friends, to show off our life, but who we are changes as a result of being there for our life as it is happening. When we live life through our technological reporter, we accept and even choose what is so much a lesser prize, the safe and unsatisfying route. We capture our experience for a kind of pseudo ownership, in form only. We have our life in our iphoto file, but we don’t have it inside our own being. It’s a paltry substitute, to have our life on file, as it can never wield the weight and meaning that comes from living it directly, actually feeling our life as it unfolds. So what are we most afraid of? I suppose at the bottom of all of it is the fear that if we show up for our life, we will be in it as it happens, and then what? What will happen when the experience is over, in the death of the experience? The fear is that we will have to move on, to let go of our experience, to give it up, as beautiful or terrible as it was. We will have to surrender to the ever changing stream that is life. Without our mind continually organizing and recording our life, in a sense–creating rocks to hold onto in the stream, we will have to let go and enter each new experience as it arises. This is the fear: to let life give birth and pass away, to keep changing without trying to stop it or make it stay still. We are not trained in this kind of living and so we keep trying to hold onto something, to solidify what not solid. What becomes fixed then is the reporter, the recorder, the method through which we are organizing our experience. This becomes our ground and our safe haven, but one that comes at a tremendous cost to our spirit and the experience of being human.
There is yet another frightening downside to technology becoming the filter through which our experience is experienced. These parents behind their smart phones are undoubtedly having an experience while they are filming their children: they are turning knobs, adjusting locations, playing with angles, hanging from rafters. It’s just that the direct experience is with their technology and not with their child or themselves. The medium through which they are experiencing their life has changed their experience. The recorder has become the recorded. The technology that at first separated us from life has become our life. It is not appropriate any longer to say that we are so busy recording our lives that we have stopped living them. Ever more frighteningly, the fleeting memory of a life that was even worth recording (to say nothing of living) is disappearing rapidly. If the original problem was that we were becoming disconnected from our own experience of life, technology has pushed us so that we are now two steps away from the original problem. We are back into a direct experience of sorts, but it was not the direct experience that we so craved nor the one that in any way nourishes our spirit.