“It is not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?” -Henry David Thoreau
“Life is…full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” -Shakespeare
We’re in the future now. It’s 2015, and we’re supposed to be living on the moon, riding hover-boards and wearing clothes made of shiny silver. Technology has promised us so much progress. Seriously though, cars are driving themselves, robots work for us and if you want to appear more-well read than you really are, you can Google quotes from famous authors in 30 seconds.
But if technology has made life easier, faster and more wonderful then why are we so busy? Think about it, how busy are you now compared to last year? Last week? This semester has seemed so busy but when I sat down recently to try to figure out what extra duties were weighing me down and I couldn’t find them. And then I got a text and forgot what I was trying to think about.
I think it’s the phone. Why do I feel so busy all the time? Because a text message demands immediate attention while I’m sending an email and trying to figure out how to add an event to my calendar. Then there’s a long Twitter feed that hasn’t been checked in an hour or so. And there was that photo I was going to put on Instagram. Then there are 6 new emails. It’s definitely the phone.
That phone. I love my iphone. It summarizes everything technology has delivered up to now. That phone has replaced books, CDs, encyclopedias, and even my computer. Anything I want to know at any time, that phone can bring it to me. It can instantly connect me with current students and students I taught 13 years ago.
It can also prevent me from drawing in my sketchbook. It can tune me out of a conversation I should be listening to. It can keep me from noticing my kids are at the breakfast table each morning. It can even keep me from smiling and making eye contact with strangers.
Just like any other tool, it’s only as good as it’s user.
I haven’t been a good phone owner. Slowly but surely the phone has started making demands on my time. Instead of making everything quicker and easier, it makes me feel like I have to hurry up and check for new information all the time. It keeps me busy about nothing.
Whatever you happen to believe about why you were put on this planet, is your phone helping you do anything with lasting importance?
Right. Which brings us to Lent 2015. I’m giving up most of my phone for 40 days. OK, I’m going to try my best to give up most of my phone for 40 days. Here’s how it’s going to work:
I can use my iphone for 15 minutes each day and not a minute more. I can take attendance, text, email or look up the formula for the area of a triangle but when the 15 minutes is up, it’s done for the day. And since the average human checks his phone 27 times each day, that’s likely going to free up a bit of time for me. In that time I will draw, talk to my family and actually see the people and things around me. Heck, I may even become more human.
I want to see the difference between a life a slavery to an electronic device and a life fully observant and engaged in the things around me. Once I see that difference I can consciously make a choice about which person I want to be. Do I want to be the guy with his phone in his hand all the time or do I want to be the guy who listens and looks people in the eye?
I’ve been thinking about this for more than a year now and I know it will not be easy. I’m not sure if it will be as difficult as not cursing, not lying or completing a drawing every day (see previous Lent entries), but it may very well be even more difficult.
Wish me luck and I invite you to put down your phone and suffer with me if you dare.