"con­fine your­self to the present"

Adventure - - News - Steve Dick­in­son - Ed­i­tor

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.

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