Call To Act
I am going to ask that before you read the below, pause, go for a walk, make a beverage and do something that is you centred. My sister Edwina Hawkridge advised once she gleaned what the blog was to interrupt. Whether that pause is taking a nap, meditating for a few minutes, reflecting over something recently heard, tapping out a rhythm, sketching something, scribbling, or just staring out the window. What follows below attacks the very thing we are communicating on right now. So leave. This piece will remain, and you can laugh at it’s offering whence you return.
The pursuit of happiness has many of us duped. Caught inside an ever decreasing trap of our own making. A few years ago I wrote extensively about Narcissus. He who fell madly in love with his own reflection. His admiration of himself causing his eventual death by the river Styx.
Some of us look at our computers/laptops/tablets or phones infrequently? Some of us believe that we casually gaze upon mobile devices once every half an hour to every couple of hours. The truth, we regard devices as many times as 10 – 40 times in an hour. That’s as often as once every 1.5 minutes in an hour. If we were to ask ourselves, if like Narcissus we have fallen in love with our own image? We would possibly answer with a resounding – NO! However the attraction to longingly, lovingly, looking at our internet savvy tech has me questioning. Are we doomed like Narcissus?
Brain on Notice
For a few years I have attempted to keep a regular meditation practice. There are a few reasons. Firstly, for overall brain health. Another consideration for me is to maintain a consistent level of focus. Our world now, demand’s a renewed level of awareness. At the top of my priority for improved concentration include; Raising emotionally literate children, my work with counselling or coaching clients, listening to podcasts or radio programs, reading bathing in the knowledge of others and enjoying insights. The benefits of focusing would be positive outcomes relating to meditation practice.
The constant challenge is the mind drifts. This is experienced at an exaggerated degree when I am sat in repose meditating. It is like my mind finds ways to literally run away with itself on the most errant of ideas worries and imaginings. Last nights meal, conversations to be had, arguments lost, items found, children to picked up or dropped off, client considerations, relationship concerns, family, health (relating to MS and aging) fitness, financial worries, ongoing world crisis (Climate, War, Water, Energy), elections, study, travel and the list continues. All of the above thoughts and considerations flood in when a moment is created for internal reflection. It is like brains wired for activity, our minds attached to them are unable to fully let go of the high functioning operant level. Problem solving, solution focused finding is a goal to be reached. To down gear into an experience of relaxing calm seems like an impossibility.
Perhaps we should be happy for Narcissus? He found the subject of his desire, and was content enough to waste away with his beloved by a river and die. Knowing the story from a position of the outsider looking upon Narcissus’ folly we notice his short-sightedness. His inability to find anything other than his own image reflected back at him. A totality of all that was beautiful, beguiling, attractive and yet ultimately unobtainable. Zeus presented Narcissus with a cruel curse then. A tale of woe for all who cannot hear or see the message therein.
Like Narcissus what our devices are able to do, is show us our interests in ever more increasingly captivating presentations. Whether the service is delivered by Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the appeal is to be amongst, playing, adapting, creating, uploading and engaging with an audience that reflects an individual back unto themselves. Devices offer an echo chamber, a self-fulfilling feedback loop. Being away from the ‘mirror’ then invites fear, revulsion, envy, jealousy, self pride, pity, fleeting experiences of happiness and momentary collections of learning.
I have been with all of these emotions and thoughts throughout my time creating a virtual footprint. The feelings that are legion, arise either through producing content or accessing information. Being away from the device and the virtual world has many experience the idea of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Not being online at the right time and place all the time. I imagine the virtual footprint anxiety steals something important from us.
At a new years party 2019 -2020, when the crisis that is the global pandemic was nascent, I shared an idea about mobile phones. I said to another party goer ‘It is like the mobile phone has replaced the fire we all used to share our stories, whilst sitting around its warmth. The phone is our camera, telecommunication device, and connects us to the world in a way that fire did and could not.’ In the days before we would throw our imagination against the fire. Fire would help us see and describe what we saw, amongst our group. These imaginings could then be made real. Manifestations of our imaginations happened at first with interpreters, then scribes and with paper, then books, then radio, cinema then TV. We have moved from the communal and shared experience to the insular and the individual.
What has been replaced by a communal warmth and sharing is a blue cooler light. There are uncountable gains for those who value and learn as individuals – to absorb information in an singular way. The loss for me, is being aware of how learning by self is passed on? As a global community with a small handful of members holding knowledge for themselves, how can we all grow and learn similarly? Is there a need for Ubuntu? The idea of the Zero-Sum game is made manifest here. Could individual isolated learning be an example of flaws in a solo learning monoculture, potentially leading some towards fundamentalism and radicalization over and above collective reasoning, reflection, awareness of self, group, community and growth?
With self interest held at a premium does the web of interconnectedness fail with a system that has a few sclera’s enmeshed amongst it’s organisation? I am taken to my own faltering nervous system, the scourge that is MS. Within a weakened system like the nervous system of a person with an auto-immune disease like Multiple Sclerosis, electrical messages are not passed easily along damaged nerves. The message either arrives late, in a delayed or garbled fashion or not at all. With relapsing remitting MS (RnR) a relapse can be caused by heat, stress, tiredness and by the over defensive mechanism of the body’s immune system confusing food particles as harmful pathogens that should be attacked and destroyed. Thereby damaging formerly healthy cells and creating scars and lesions along nerves.
I am also mindful of Cypher in the Matrix, who as a human component attacks and betrays the system the rebels have asserted. As a node Cypher attempts to corrupt all – for his own gain. If a web like the human nervous system, the microorganisms of the soil and the systems that support plant life, can and often do find alternative paths to carry information, then the organism can survive and often finds ways to do so well. With the invention of mobile technology our ability to function well, beyond a virtual world appears hampered, affected – infected.
Attention spans have been decreasing ever since the Information Age became the mental onslaught it now is! Our minds have become a much sought-after real estate upon which a number of material battles are fought. Those who win get to earn our first 2nd and 3rd purchasing choices. They earn our belief and own our loyalties. Any other choice is seen as untrustworthy, valueless, having inferior quality and simply does not hold our interest. Reading a long read like Whiteness on The Couch by Natasha Stovall or a book that challenges long held ideas about the world in which we live such as The Origin of Consciousness in The Breakdown of the Bicameral mind by Julian Jaynes, or True Believer by Eric Hoffer helps to improve focus and builds a newer understanding of what we all experience and offered chance to re-evaluate. Even a blog as lengthy, wordy, wan and as wildly speculative as my blogs tend to be. Potentially can grow attention spans and generate a nonlinear perspective that could be useful in topics of discussion at personal or professional settings. Make what is read, listened to or watched personally meaningful. Even if the subject material is used as a catalyst to spark ridicule or laughter for a moment allow self to be altered.
What we tend to gain when we step away from the banal, simple, pre-digested material often fed through news and media outlets, snap chat feeds, Instagram lives, TikTok videos, Youtube viral finds, Facebook campaigns, twitter links, LinkedIn broadcasts, can be a step closer to genuine rich honest communicative ideas that challenge and create space for new thoughts and ideas to emerge. The intention behind writing this piece was ultimately for the reader – you; to answer a simple question.
If you realise that you, like Narcissus, are soon to bring about your own end through mindless neglect what steps do you take?
An inspired evening of conversation, food and drink, with friends and new acquaintances can provoke discussion that offer chance to catch new ideas. If the pandemic has robbed us of anything it is the freedom to meet, and have chance to come together and talk, share ideas and laugh at the folly of our lives. I thank Dave, his wife Emily and family for hosting a truly entertaining evening that birthed the idea of the fire in our hands – mobiles.
I have shared in previous Blogs Natasha Stovall’s article of Whiteness on the Couch. The article is a prime example of a sustained effort arriving at difficult conclusions. Whiteness on the Couch is a long read. My advice take time to absorb the information shared.
The Origin of Consciousness sounded like a great book to spend time with. My niece Portia suggested I read it if I wanted to gain understanding of what we perceive as psychology. The book has helped me appreciate the complicated awareness we have understanding our minds.
The link to Cypher is in essence prophetic in relation to how he attempts to swing events in the 1999 movie The Matrix, to his favour.
After Skool offers a wonderful philosophical and practical understanding of what we are experiencing being a sentient being on the planet now. I was attracted by the title ‘MASS PSYCHOSIS – How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL’. I believe the authors of this beautifully drawn argument offer a useful and updated understanding of Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.
Elite Content Marketer brings the article Screen Time Stats as a useful observation of our human trend in relation to the other screen we used to spend hours watching – TV. I also enjoyed reading about the impact of picking up our phones. We become enthralled with what we have seen. Narcissus whisperings.
The Social Dilemma Netflix documentary was a perfect film to highlight the challenge facing humanity at the height of the Pandemic. I found the documentary useful to hear from those involved with the information age industry, state clearly, if a service is free YOU ARE THE PRODUCT being exploited, used and largely manipulated.
The True Believer YouTube video is an insightful look at Eric Hoffer’s book. Academy of Ideas shares understanding of what the book discusses. I offer True Believer as a counter argument to A Killing of the Mind video. Mass movements come and go, we determine their impact.
A Killing of the Mind After Skool
Screen Time Stats Elite Content Marketer
The Social Dilemma Netflix
True Believer Academy of Ideas
To answer the question above, as an Artist my medium du jour is writing. It is my small act of creating, imagining and bringing to light from another place ideas that engender hope, resilience, humor and balance. These ideas are what keep me up at night and get me up in the morning. If writing can open doors that lead to corridors of wonder – the attempt – tether lightening to my leaden ideas…
Cover photo Glee by Glen Anthony on Unsplash
1st photo Inlay Golden Tree image by Faye Cornish on Unsplash
2nd photo Train Viewing by Rasheed Kemy on Unsplash
3rd photo White Shoes by Redd on Unsplash
4th Mirrored Man photo by Imani Bahati on Unsplash