Saturday, January 29, 2022

The Downfalls of Smart Technology

Cannon Beach Oregon 9/19/13
CC Jean Stimmell

My partner has a smartwatch, and it enriches her life because she is mindful about how she uses it. I used to be among the first to embrace new technology but now feel increasingly threatened by it, prompting me to build a seawall against this onrushing digital tide.

While I love email because I can leisurely respond when I have a free moment, I hate texting because it hits me over the head, interrupting my train of thought, already fragile at my advanced age. I previously alternated between a desktop with a big screen to edit photos and a laptop, but they drove me crazy because of synching problems. 

So I downsized, trading in my desktop to purchase a big screen monitor to use with my laptop. For me, a smartwatch is beyond the pale: I have neither the time nor the patience to make peace with another device. More important, I don't want to be interrupted while peacefully daydreaming or strolling in my woods, striving to lose myself in nature. But most critically, I am shunning the smartwatch because it threatens my ability to live inside my own skin.

As Lindsay Crouse recently wrote about the smartwatch in the NYT: "It can interfere with our ability to know our own bodies. Once you outsource your well-being to a device and convert it into a number, it stops being yours. The data stands in for self-awareness. We let a gadget tell us when and how to move, when we're tired, when we're hungry."⁠1 

Performance expert Brad Stulberg, author of" The Practice of Groundedness," observes how we measure success in our culture by how much we achieve and smart devices play right into that: "It's like you're trying to win at this game instead of living your life. Instead of learning what your body feels like, you have a number."⁠2

Crouse writes about how her smartwatch became an addiction causing her to crave its approval: "These devices don't just record your behavior — they influence it and keep you coming back. You become dependent on external validation."⁠3 

At present, I'm reading "The Wakeful Body" by Willa Baker, who is a Buddhist teacher and writer. She warns that even experienced meditators often get marooned in their heads: "If truths that we know with the conceptual mind or that we glimpse with intuition do not make it down into the body and nervous system, we will not truly live them."⁠4 

She describes a series of practices to “wake down,” designed to leave behind our conceptual minds, which – if I were designing the program – would include getting rid of smartwatches. By doing so, she says, we don’t lose anything because our humanness lies inside us: Experiencing what is happening in our bodies "right here and right now is enough. It is more than enough. The here and now is the very stuff of liberation."⁠5

It isn't easy to convey the depth of Barker's thesis. One reason, she says, is because "[w]hile prose is the language of the mind, poetry is the language of the body. "

In the spirit of celebrating the body through poetry, I will close by repeating her quote by Kabir Das, the 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint:

Be strong then, and enter into your own body; 

there you have a solid place for your feet. 

Think about it carefully! 

Don't go off elsewhere! Kabir says this: just throw away all thoughts of imaginary things, 

and stand firm in that which you are




2 Ibid

3 Ibid

4 Baker, Willa. The Wakeful Body (p. 7). Shambhala. Kindle Edition.

5 ibid.

1 comment:

Patricia Savage said...

Thanks for this thoughtful article Jean. Love the idea of waking down. And Poetry as the language of the body. We lost Thich Nat Hanh this week. What a wonderful, helpful man. His love and wisdom we must not lose. Sending you love and peace. Pat Savage