"confine yourself to the present"
As I walked reluctantly back from Yosemite Falls, still caught up in the majesty and the angelic awe of the surroundings, I glanced back one last time to take one final look. My reverence was ended as I collided with an oncoming hiker, as apologetic as I could be, I had no doubt we were both focused on the overwhelming beauty of our surroundings that we didn’t see each other. ‘Sorry buddy I was distracted’ I blurted.
The guy in his late teens, ‘yeah no worries’, looked at me, unperturbed and walked on – not looking at the surrounding or where he was but texting on his phone. Confused, I watched him walk on, he glanced up once, not at the falls or the cliffs around him, just at the crowd ahead. I continued to watch as he headed to a bench and sat, slowly he put down his phone and looked up. I was full of expectation, he smiled and seemed to be lifted by what he saw and it was like a scene from Rocky as nature won over technology. I didn’t hear the dink, ping or blip – but he did and went back to his phone and started texting, lost again in some other moment.
I actually felt defeated, how can something so amazing be of such little worth. I waited a little longer but text boy was back in whatever Snapchat/Instagram social media world that was worth more than the world around him. OK that might be an overstatement, it may not be worth more than where he was right there and then but it’s a bigger stronger distraction. Marcus Aurelius* said ‘Confine yourself to the present’ wise words for someone who had no idea of the web, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. It is so easy to spend our lives looking at what a friend had for dinner, or what rant Donald Trump has said/tweeted today. Sometimes it's almost ok; it's entertainment, it's informative (maybe), it's linkage with others (at a level). But there are times, when the sun is shining, when the stars are bright, when the canyons are looming and when the world around us deserves our full attention that we miss so much by not being fully present.
People, even when interacting with others, can’t seem to be present, there is nothing more insulting than being in a conversation and ‘dink’, the person you are talking to takes out their phone and reads and even worse texts back. It devalues your interaction and in the same way it devalues our interaction with nature. We are so busy capturing that image for Facebook or shooting that video for Snapchat we forget to be in the moment and absorbing the moment.
There are times when the web and social media are wonderful tools, and the guy texting at the falls could have been writing to his sick grandmother. But in reality that social linking doesn’t cause damage but it does cause loss. It pulls us from the present whether that be family, friends, a sunny day or a national park. The trick is the balance, perhaps in the same way we turn our phones off when we go into an important meeting we need to learn to turn our phones off when we need to be present. A challenge for us all for 2018 – staying in the present.
Marcus Aurelius: 26 April 121 – 17 March 180 AD) was Roman emperor from 161 to 180, ruling jointly with Lucius Verus until Verus' death in 169 and jointly with his son, Commodus, from 177. He was the last of the so-called Five Good Emperors.