Am I a slave to my possessions?
I’ve had a fear for a good deal of my life now. Addictions. Or harmful habits or reactions of any kinds.
For example, I fear having no control over my love of food. And eating way too much of it, way too quickly. And even though I stopped biting my fingernails several years ago, I still feel a pull toward them. All the time. I was afraid of bleeding, public speaking, and heights. So I started giving blood and speaking in front of an audience whenever I could. And, of course, I went skydiving a couple of times.
A New Terror
And now I face a new terror. A new burden. And I pay a lot of money in order to posses the burden.
Technology, and all of its wicked offspring.
Slaves to Technology
Years ago I went to a lecture meant to “prove” that we were slaves to technology more than technology was our servant. The lecturer spoke about the computer keyboard.
Why is the keyboard in this odd and seemingly random pattern? Well, it was originally created to be optimal for typewriters, and did a fantastic job preventing type bars (the nifty pieces that strike the paper and plop the letters there) from getting tangled with one another. (And yes, I needed to Google what they’re called.)
In comes the modern word processor, completely void of any of these problems. A perfect opportunity to revamp the keyboard! It can now be in alphabetical order. Or optimized for faster typing based on thorough research. Limitless options!
But people didn’t like it. They had already grown used to something else and were unwilling to embrace change.
And thus, we are essentially following where technologically leads us, rather than guiding technology where we wish for it to go.
Do I Answer the Door?
I had a big disagreement with a lot of folk way back when. We argued about a rarely talked about gem of an invention: The front door. A technology masterpiece, if there ever was one.
Imagine the scenario: It’s a relaxing Sunday, summer afternoon, somewhere in suburban America. And the family is all sitting around, quietly reading. Enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly someone knocks on the front door. But no one wishes to respond, let alone get up.
The debate: What is the obligation of the comfortable family at that moment, if any?
Others in the discussion maintained that their calm must be disturbed. Someone is required to minimally ask who is at the door. And if that ruins everyone’s beautiful time, so be it. An obligation is an obligation. They might add: What if it’s an emergency!? (Since, as we know, all 2019 emergencies are handled with a gentle knock on the door.)
It’s My Damn Door
My approach was… let’s say, drastically different. And still is. As far as I’m concerned, my house is my house, and my door is my door. And they both exist to serve me, and in exactly whichever way I choose.
So, even if I’m sitting back against my door doing nothing at all, I still have no obligations once the big knock comes. It will be no inconvenience to me whatsoever if I just turn around and open the door. My life is not being affected in the slightest, since I wasn’t doing anything at all. Nevertheless, I have no requirements at that moment. I am perfectly alright with not responding to the door simply because I do not want to.
The door serves me. Not the other way around! It does not get to cause me even a single moment of discomfort, unless I so choose.
It’s My Damn Phone
Enter the modern world and this debate gets to a whole new level. Ever had this experience? Someone calls you and you don’t pick up. They call again, maybe two more times. They text to see why you’re not picking up. Maybe they try a few people who they think might be nearby to see what’s going on.
Finally, you get out of the bathroom, or leave the movie theater, or whatever it was you were selfishly preoccupied with. And after all the intensity, you assume an emergency and call back… only to find out they were looking for the recipe for that chocolate cake you made last week.
Why do we have these possessions if they become obsessions and obligations rather than items that exist to serve us?
A Slave to My Phone
And trust me, I’m as guilty as the next person. Like most of you, I’ve had those moments where I was called out for looking at my cellphone in the middle of a live conversation with someone. I completely missed what they were saying to me because I got a new notification or I was distracted by another bunch of likes on my Facebook post.
And what happens when my phone is more important to me than the person sitting across from me? The world shatters. Interpersonal communication is replaced by dopey comatose-like monkeys staring at a few circuits.
I recall a few years ago poking fun at a group of students. They were all sitting around “hanging out with each other”. Yet not a single one of them was actually talking. Each one was engrossed with their phone, probably texting someone who was just down the hall. And they all thought I was weird for thinking the scenario was hysterical.
When to Break the Chains?
Many years ago I was told that a person should not open up a school if they wouldn’t have the strength to close it should it become necessary. What if they were forced to run the school contrary to their value system? What if the entire concept of the institution was undermined by others? The ethical choice and the choice with integrity would be to shut the place down rather than compromise on ones value system.
Perhaps one should never lift up a cellphone if they don’t have the strength to put it down when it stops serving the greater good.
Perhaps we should all reconsider what’s important to us in this world, and figure out whether the technology in our lives is serving us in accomplishing our goals. Or distracting us and making us servants to the objectively less important parts of our lives.