Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why we're so distracted by our phones just saw this wild photo on Instagram today (which my daughter says I'm too old to be on, by the way), and the first thing I thought was:

"Wow. That explains a lot."

A lot about why I personally find high-tech gadgets, the internet, and social media  so distracting.

It lets me know I'm not alone. My primate cousins are the same way.

We're curious. We're social. We're... something.

Whatever it is, we all have it. So there's no need to bemoan our constant distractibility and fascination with this stuff--the pull that draws into whatever it is. It's basic human... err primate tendency.

Not that we just give in to it all the time, but it's a mistake to deny it or look at it it as a flaw of some sort.

Just watched the wordless but visually striking movie, Baraka, last night, and it opens with one of these macaques relaxing in one of these hot springs. Amazing how "human" he/she looked, eyes closing slightly, then looking off into the distance, up to his/her neck in the hot spring.

Then they switched to a night sky scene, as if the monkey was thinking about it--meditating, even.

Probably not the same monkey that played with the phone, but it could have been. We're complex, we higher primates--hypersocial, hyperintelligent, hypercreative, hypercurious animals.

My goal is to better understand what it means to be human, partly so I can better understand myself, like why I'm so distracted by the computer, and partly so I can forge a better fit between my classroom, my life, and human nature.

Understanding is always better. It's not always more comfortable at first. Sometimes it shatters cherished illusions. But if we use the understanding--adjust our live based on it, we end up better off.

But I think the power of that image of the macaque engrossed in the iPhone went deeper than this. It meant a connection--a connection with something that extends beyond time and body and place and connects us all together. And that kind of empathy...


That kind of empathy is probably one of the key facets of what it means to be "human."

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