Right now an infectious disease spreads across our conflict-laden globe. It’s been around since the emergence of civilization, but has recently grown in size and strength. This disease, this threat to life on earth, hides in plain sight; in bedrooms, parks, schools, places of worship and work. This disease, dear comrades, is estrangement from this, the real world.
Those afflicted fail to sense, to perceive, to make memories, to build coherent life narratives. They’re mired in a virtual reality, a world of human and machine construction. We know them by their addictions – be they video games, social media, the internet. They’re perpetually “tuned in”; the growing hordes who are pale of skin, hunched of back, frail of frame.
Perhaps worst of all, they’re opting out of life – real, sensual, difficult, vital life. How should we define our place in the world if we’re wholly unaware of who shares that world with us – humans and nonhumans alike? What does detachment from each other and from nature mean for human identity?
We first confront the world with our animal senses. We then use our senses to form perceptions. And we employ our perceptions of experiences to form memories. Then at at last, we arrange our memories to inform how we think and feel.
Without “sensing” something, it’s as if that something never happened. It’s as if your friend waved to you from across the street while you were too damn busy staring at your idevice. You didn’t sense or perceive your friend’s presence, so it’s as if the encounter never happened. It’s as if life, real life never happened.
Senses help us make sense of where we’ve been and where we’re headed. So maybe that’s where we begin to “turn the tide.” Once we lift our heads from our devices, turn our eyes away from our screens, we “re-attune” to the flow of living. We sense what goes on inside and outside ourselves. We suddenly notice the interplay of birds above our heads. We take in the tone and content of our friend’s speech.
It’s possible that re-connection with the real world begins with “re-appreciation.” A respect for that which is touchable and felt: the hand-written letter; the face-to-face conversation; even the mindful phone discussion when our attention wraps around the human on the other end of the line. Appreciation of an evening stroll through your neighborhood; a hike in the nearby woodland; the paddle down river; the countryside- and cityscape-imbibing bike ride. The appreciation of birdsong and ground squirrel acrobatics and hawk circling and deer prancing.
From appreciation springs forth intention. A motivation to live, to be in the moment in this place and time. Stalwarts of yoga might call this practice “centering.” A “grounding.” A place-bound “rootedness.” A re-entering of our lifeworld. A savoring of the world using all of our animal senses. It relates to living this life in the real world. The actual, sensual world. Something the screen-riddled virtual world will never replicate.Follow SethLaJ307