Disconnected Thoughts on Connection
I am limited.
I’d like to forget this frustrating truth, and I often do, but sooner or later it comes back to settle uncomfortably on my shoulders. Lately though, it has been easy to forget. My ubiquitous connectedness—my ever-presence—means I can manage my blog in the woods. But I shouldn’t be able to manage a blog in the woods; I ought to just be, but in the woods.
There’s something that can’t be ignored about approaching the woods. I was recently in the country for a weekend retreat where disconnection and reconnection was a theme. I walked down the hill from the main lodge, away from the persistent hum of AC units and the murmur of conversation. Further down the slope, further from the whir of climate controlled buildings, I turned a corner on the gravel path.
The machine noise faded and the gravel turned to dirt; I came upon a path into the woods. The persistent man-made noise was replaced with the insistent hum of birds, bugs, and branches. The trees surrounded me. I couldn’t ignore the different cadences, at once in harmony but not one enslaved to another. Gone was the persistent mechanical precision; instead, a rooted presence.
On a walk around the edge of the camp, I came to the lake. Passing through an opening in the pine-needle sprinkled bank, I walked up to the edge of the still water. A bird I couldn’t identify called every few seconds, repeatedly. My mind went immediately from this is beautiful to I should share this. Unfortunately, my phone in my cabin—on purpose. At first I wanted to send Maria (my wife) a picture to show her the fallen, moss-covered tree that stretched out from the bank into the glassy water. Then I thought briefly of how I would compose the photo for Instagram. The idea of sharing is almost inseparable from social media now.
I realized that this feeling I wanted to share—the feeling of happening upon a beautiful, hidden scene—would lose something by being “shared” through a disembodied connection. Maria was at home working on a grant proposal and I was enjoying a weekend of restorative rest; I’d have likely heaped discontent on her by intruding on her local reality. What I really wanted was for her to be with me, looking out over the same lake. It is, of course, a blessing that I could call her later and tell her about my day, but I believe we shouldn’t live as if we never have to be apart. I cheapen the reality that seized my heart, and Maria’s experience of similar encounters, when I force it into a square and attach heart-eyes emoji.
Instead I hoped for the time when returned when we could spend some time together and recount our individual time apart to each other. I want to share the sense of my experience with her, because that’s all that’s truly possible.
Everything else is a backlit lie.
Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation - The Atlantic
Habits of Mind in an Age of Distraction - Comment Magazine
Practicing Presence, Part 1 - Image Journal