“And do you think that unto such as you A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew God gave a secret, and denied it me? Well, well—what matters it? Believe that, too!” The Ruba'iyat of Omar Khayyam
What does it matter, really?
I might know something but you won’t listen, you might know something and possibly I don’t care. Pretend as much as you like to read every single post notification you receive throughout the day, scratch your chin thoughtfully as you skim past the first words and then go back to whatever else you do with your life. I defy anyone to remember today’s headlines next week without having to look it up on yet another site run by the wicked.
Why is that, pray tell?
Some say it is because the human mind reads differently from screens. That is of course a scientific argument, and probably has a grain of truth. We process information differently when we see it, on a computer screen or fie! a mobile telephone. It can be said that has been done by design, to hunch us over, glue us to a little display, occasionally issuing little grunts, as we let the world pass us by. Walking into people used to be considered rude, nowadays, well it is just another one of those inconveniences we have conditioned ourselves to pass off with a shrug. Unless you are me; I still find it funny to let nose to screen walkers blunder into me. Not because I enjoy injury, but I like to think the little shock of reality did them some good.
It can also be said our inability to concentrate on anything for more than a millisecond is caused by – and I will give you a choice:
b. Power lines and radiation
c.The Climate – because, well it causes just about everything else, like weather
d. Too much TV when we were young
e. Too little fibre in our diets
f. Not enough fish
Now, try and eliminate some of those things from the list. For Stress, you could try Yoga and for Power Lines, you could move. There isn’t an awful lot you can do about The Climate though if you don’t like yours, you could go somewhere else, TV is easily solved by chucking it out the window which would be fun or you could sell it to someone you don’t care about, Fibre is not really my problem as your bowels are answerable to you alone, and Fish, well didn’t anyone tell you in that childhood most of you pretend you didn’t have, that Fish is brain food? Hang science on that one. Granny has been saying that ever since her granny said it. And we all know never to doubt Granny.
“I stared at the man.
‘How many tins of sardines did you eat, Jeeves?’
‘None, sir. I am not fond of sardines.’
‘You mean, you thought of this great, this ripe, this amazing scheme entirely without the impetus given to the brain by fish?’
‘Yes, sir.’ [From Very Good, Jeeves, (c) 1930 by P.G. Wodehouse]
The fish thing, my dear readers is the only sound advice I can give you. Do eat it. It might not make you smarter but isn’t feeling better smart? And I don’t mean Filet O’Fish or fish and chips or Long John Silver’s. I mean good old fish, the one that comes with a head and tail and you can leave the fun part of gutting the sucker to your worthy spouse. Sardines, herring and that cute little salmon toasty you serve to your boss when he comes over. Anyway, I am not a food writer, and I won’t advise you about health. That is your business, just like your bowels.
Let us assume we did all of the above. Since I have not, I cannot tell you if it would make us more attentive. Probably out of sheer boredom we would likely regain the ability to listen to our fellowmen again. Because that is what attention is, isn’t it? The ability to process information, reflect on it and then present a viable counter-argument to promote the conversation or agree with acknowledgement.
I won’t start with “In the Old Days” because that is moot. We all think our old days were better and we all talked so much more. Well get over it, one half of the population doesn’t know what a landline is and the other half can’t afford the additional bills to have one. Unless you have a Mobile, no one is going to call you. Unless it is one of the friends you gave the dial tone to when they annoyed you. Sure, kids don’t play as much outside anymore in some places, where I live, I sometimes wish they would go inside and scream at their parents or someone else. We like to make ourselves believe children today are whinier, what with parents sulking into screens while ignoring their offspring, who can blame them? Someone else made them into the parents they are today. Society of course has a solution for that too- just give your little angel a mobile phone so baby can learn to be just like you. To Hell with meaningful interaction. They are going to learn everything from someone else anyway, aren’t they? As soon as they go to school, let the teachers do your work for you. I hope you have a big chequebook to go with that. I hear therapy is expensive nowadays.
This brings me to the bugbear of this post. The incessant, “it was better yesterday” crowd. I hate to break it to you aging makes you think like that. Hankering back to the days of our youth, when the sun shined for 36 hours a day and when friends knocked on the door and mom never had to make a play date because mom didn’t have to go to work, our music, our fashion, our lives were oh so much better. In some respect, it was better because we want it to be so. Because we have run out of solutions to fix this mess of a planet without realising the designs being played on us started a long time ago before most of us were even born. We stopped paying attention when it mattered. Every generation has fallen into the same trap, taken on board the same lies, the same fakery, the same nonsense spoonfed to us from the day we are born to the day we die. The packaging has changed but the rubbish is the same.
Take an innocuous example, music. There was time. when waltzes were considered too risque to dance due to the close face-to-face contact of the participants, described in 1771 by novelist Sophie von la Roche as the ““shameless, indecent whirling-dance of the Germans” that “…broke all the bounds of good breeding.” Nowadays, try and have a wedding without one. We can slide into every single decade, spanning hundreds of years and there will always be some music or dance that scandalised society. For my generation, it was that horror called Tipper Gore tripping over herself plastering Parental Advisory stickers to everything that she and her ilk deemed offensive whatever the context might be. We had Nancy Reagan and her “Just Say No” campaign which was going to stop every single person on the planet from even thinking about drugs because Nancy was just so sincere and her husband the ultimate paragon of virtue. Well, I can only ask you to look at:
But someone, is always out to Kill the Messenger, aren’t they?
Unfortunately, the “messengers” who should be at least tarred and feathered and smoked just keep on going, don’t they? The poison runs deep and the Gore, Reagan troupe didn’t start the misery we are fighting now, they simply added their two cents worth, just like their predecessors and their future forms have done, always a little more, never a little less, strangling everything in their way and if they can’t stomp on it, then they can bomb it.
The plain and simple fact is, every single generation has let someone else get away with it. No one is blameless. How can you blame people playing with their phones all day long when there was never anything done to stop it? How can we say they are inattentive when we ourselves refused to see the monster when we brought it out of the bag? Limitless communication used to be reserved for those who could carry around a telephone that looked like a brick and weighed the same as one. A later model came in a bag, a super impressive yuppy accessory.
No one knew in 1973 that the mobile phone would be,. by 2022 a human arm extension that would replace communication in its most primitive form i.e. talking face to face, writing a letter, playing a game with your friends in the same room – just because we didn’t have one when we were growing up doesn’t make us better for it. It just gave us something to whine about in the future. When we are absolutely honest with ourselves, every single one of us was thrilled when we got our first mobile phone. It even had that dinky Snakes game on it, how cool. The problem is we didn’t learn from our experiences. A useful tool turned into the monster it is and we did nothing about it. We didn’t stop our children from having one or admit to ourselves the drawbacks and flaws it has. And now that an entire generation has been born that never knew life without a computer or a mobile phone for that matter, what are we going to do now? That is anyone born after 1996, by the way. The generation gap used to be the Model T-Ford and horse buggies. It is significantly bigger now.
The problem isn`t a lack of communication: it is too much communication. From morning to night we are assaulted with it, badgered into answering messages, avalanched with interesting articles chosen by “preferences” we aren’t actually bothered with (seriously who can read 30 articles about wildlife photography. I only said I like birds!) Our homes have nasty little devices called Alexa that for some reason have enamoured the world because it does what for you exactly? Please don’t tell me Alexa helps you find the weather for the day. You could look out the window, for example. Oh sorry, that might be misleading. You can’t tell right now if it is going to rain at 3pm. Clouds could be a useful indicator. http://www.weatherwithouttechnology.co.uk/ or if you want to read a little less https://www.wikihow.com/Predict-the-Weather-Without-a-Forecast
What these two sites have in common is the obsolete idea of observation. The very thought of looking around us, watching clouds or how birds fly seems to have hit an all-time low. Since there are people who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows I despair to teach them about the weather. But they should learn. We all should. It is a primal skill, one we should all have. Whether you believe it or not, one day in the future when the lights go out and everything grinds to a halt, it will be rather difficult to ask Alexa anything. Think about the panic humanity feels when the mobile network or Twitter or WhatsApp suddenly fail. And the lights are still on. Imagine what will happen if the world were plunged into darkness without Google to rely on.
Our inability to concentrate on the written word is but the start of a much longer downward slope. Call it what you will, the end of humanity, the final defeat, the moment before we start thumping our chests and looking for nice caves to live in. Every yesterday was today and tomorrow. Time will not wait for you to bring your head out of your rear and it is certainly never too late to try. Start trying to be mindful. Look at everything twice and while you still can, learn. Try and remember what you have already learned. Devices and designs have been played on us for too long and we have always adapted and moved along. Stop adapting, start pointing out the wrongs and let your own judgment tell you what to do, not what the internet thinks you should. Don’t just think for yourself- that is selfish – reach out and help others think for themselves, teach your children better than you were taught yourself. History only repeats itself by design, not by chance. We can break the cycle when we breathe in the open air and say “I am myself.” And if you want to go back to the old days when everything was so much better, go into the recesses of your mind and think back if you were a better person too. What have you brought with you from yesterday that can help today, to face tomorrow?