The Real Culprit

 

(This post was co-written with Joanna Silverman, a good friend and a long-term educator who specializes in children’s social and emotional development.)

It seems like almost every other week the ante around our children and the screen technologies gets raised. The most recent incident involved an Internet hoax known as “The Momo Suicide Challenge;” an outrageous and fictionalized viral legend purported to be encouraging young children to kill themselves via a maniacal-looking doll face that supposedly popped up unbidden in the middle of children’s shows.

As women who have been critically looking at the ways that screen use impacts the emotional, social, mental and physical development of children for years, there is a sad irony being played out here. Worried parents are posting all over social media about the dangers of this made-up scourge. The news has covered it. Schools and pediatrician offices have made public service announcements to encourage parents to monitor their children online; warning them of the possible dangers.The irony begins to reveal itself here when we are willing to notice that all of this frenzied activity goes on while we often miss the most obvious of all the culprits around our children and the hazards of being online.

While we both appreciate the fear that this has raised in so many families, we are left wondering why there is not such an outpouring around the very real dangers our children face each and every day. Dangers, by the way, which we willingly allow them to be exposed to. But because they do not initially or obviously present as menacing, or because we have come to rely so heavily on the screens as entertainers, friends and babysitters for our children, we do not notice. More to the point, we do not want to notice. For to do so would require work; a kind of work that far exceeds posting a warning to other parents via social media. A kind of work that might go unnoticed, and would certainly garners no “likes.”

For starters, what about the daily erosions to our children’s innocence as they watch content that is far too mature for their age. Examples of this abound and are most noticeably played out in the hyper-sexualization of our girls at younger and younger ages.  And because we are a culture that has become perilously accustomed to the use of violence as entertainment, our boys are daily killing, maiming and torturing others in their “games.” Even when we say it is disturbing and that we do not like it, we merely shake our heads. But we don’t stop it.

Because the “dangers” to low self-esteem and poor body image do not have a gruesome face that can be easily posted in a way to make a parent’s blood boil, we let that one go. Even though how our children feel about themselves will inform every single thing that they do for the rest of their lives; their relationships, work satisfaction, health, happiness, and more. And what about their precious little bodies that require movement for them to be healthy in body and mind, but that we have somehow decided must not be that important as we put them in front of screens where they sit hunched and motionless. Literally frozen within themselves.

And even with the bigger issues like the link between anxiety (the leading mental health issue among our children) and the introduction of cell phones and social media with our kids, who is posting to start a movement on this one? Who is starting a campaign around the rise in self-harming behaviors among our children linked to screen use? Who is demanding public service announcements around eating disorders that are fueled by sites supporting and encouraging this behavior? And who’s post about the losses in childhood due to sleep deprivation, academic and behavior problems linked to screen use has gone viral?

If we were being honest, and if we were willing to look more closely, we would come to see that what we are saying yes to every day is far more likely to damage our children than any disfigured face.

Truly, the baddest boogey man of all can be found in the very things we are saying yes to on a regular basis. The very things that our children spend hours and hours each day doing with a screen. And yet, we do nothing. Why is this? Why are we so quick to push the panic button on a hoax, while we sit by watching the demise of childhood? Unfortunately, this says everything about us, and nothing about the ones who perpetrate such hoaxes. You see, we are ripe for the picking here. For in these rare and exaggerated moments we get to rise up, indignant, against the injustices being inflicted upon our children. Simultaneously, we get to keep doing what we are doing. No change required. No discomfort called for. And we get to give ourselves the congratulatory luxury of feeling as though we have really done something because we have posted something.

So the ante has certainly been raised. Again. And while it would be easy to make extreme occurrences the focus, what if we made the focus us? What if we got real with ourselves around why it is that we keep turning our children over to something that is not good, safe, or worthy of their childhood? What if the real culprit here is all that we are ignoring?

 

 

Boredom

 

I am sitting in meditation in a yoga class. The teacher is giving her opening spiel around settling in and being with the troubling ways of the mind. At one point she says, “It has to get boring as hell for us to be able to notice, that it is actually, not.” Yes, I think. I know this to be true for myself, and for what I saw with my own children when they were growing up. The way that suddenly the inertia of the boring-ness will bust out into something truly vital and engaging if given half a chance; turning into something both mesmerizing and alive. Exactly the opposite of boring.

And then I think, What is to become of the ones who will never experience boredom? The ones who will never have the chance to bust through to the other side. The ones who are growing up now terrified and avoidant of ever getting anywhere near this experience. And the myriad of parents training their children to believe that boredom is akin to subjecting their kids to the plague; leaving them to run their children ragged with too many things to do, and too many ways to fill their minds.

And then of course, there are the screens, and their glowing  promise to keep any of us from ever having to experience such a difficult and noxious state. But what if this is all wrong? What if boredom holds something truly precious for each and every one of us in the most quintessential of human ways?

What if boredom was exactly the state that would bring us back to noticing The Great Mystery? The truly precious nature of human existence? That which is beyond the busyness and the drive to be entertained 24/7. Would we accept boredom then?

Boredom is defined as the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. Maybe this is exactly what it takes. A kind of weariness and restlessness that arises out of the absence in our lives of anything that truly grabs our attention, that we may then go on to find what it is that is actually worthy of that very same precious attention. But in order for us to make use of this valuable and necessary information we would actually have to leave some space in our lives; making a commitment to not fill it up with something. For armed with this kind of knowing we are primed to build and build and build in our discomfort until it finally reaches a critical mass that serves to propel us forward into something more life-affirming.

But now, because there is always something in the form of a screen to fill that void, immediately and continuously, that fertile space of boredom never gets a chance to pull us in, and then to sling shot us back out into that which captivates and motivates.

And herein lies one of our biggest problems in The Age of Technology; how can we notice the lack of something not happening? How are we to notice that because there is no space, there is no boredom, and therefore no compelling experience towards what we did not even know we are missing out on? This is the trade-off now that we are up against.

It sounds kind of crazy to even suggest what I am about to suggest. To even be living in a time and place where we actually have to create space to be bored, but here we are. Could you imagine it? Could you imagine making a point in your life to be bored? Could you imagine not filling the gap when the urge arises with a screen? Could you imagine when your children came to you and said, “I’m bored,” you said, “Great,” and then left them to their own devices (and not the electronic ones)? Could you imagine not filling the space for them out of guilt or some preconceived idea that they must always be entertained?

Taking on boredom willingly just might be one of the most revolutionary things any one of us could do not only for our own lives, but for the greater good of all. A kind of antidote and balm to all of the incessant doing and filling of the paltry empty space any of us even has.

Ironically enough, even with all that we have to occupy ourselves, look around and notice how many of us appear “weary and restless” despite our most obvious lack of boredom.

Things Worth Keeping

 

While there are so many benefits to and efficiencies brought through the use of our screen technologies, I am often struck by the things that are being lost. Sometimes what’s going missing comes in the form of the really big and more readily identifiable as important things in our lives; obvious losses that are more easily apparent. Ones that we would want to be on the lookout for. At other times, though, it comes in the form of seemingly insignificant things and ways of being, that while subtle, actually add up to much greater losses than what we might initially imagine.

Lately for me, this reveals itself in the simple and dependable form of a dictionary.

Because I write every week, I run into my dictionary on a regular basis, along with its invaluable counterpart, the thesaurus. I know I could do all of this online. I know I could save myself “the trouble” of getting up; choosing instead to sit un-moving in front of a screen. I know that it might appear to someone else as inconvenient, too effortful or old- fashioned to do something by hand that the computer could take care of. That perhaps my choice would appear as unnecessary from a modern technological standpoint.

But in the nitty-gritty of what it feels like to be me in my life, I find that I actually do not care about any of the rational reasons around this. Why? Because I know something else to be true. And that something else is that the use of these two amazing books gives back and feeds me in ways that no device ever could.

I love the fact that I have to get up to go get either or both of these two inspiring writing companions. I love opening the door to the cabinet where they live. It feels as if I am going to visit wise and trusted friends who sit patiently waiting to offer their help as I need it. And while the distance to the cabinet is a mere few feet from where I sit, I love the chance to stand up, stretch, and move my way over to what I need; getting back into my body by getting upright, bending over, getting upright again, and then remaining standing while I look something up.

I love the way that my mind needs to change gears as I sort through the letters and their particular order to get to the specific word that I am looking for. And then once finding the word, slowing down in my thoughts and movements as I pause and ponder over what I am looking at. All of those possibilities there for the choosing. All of those definitions and interpretations that will assist me in clarifying and enriching what it is that I really want to say. While I am doing all of this, it is not lost on me that as I wonder and integrate what it is that I am reading I just feel differently than I do when I read off of a screen. Better somehow, in all ways. (Not to mention the side benefit to my eyes which naturally soften and relax back as I switch from the screen with all of its light and intensity, to the soft and powerful written word on a page.)

And then there is the love for the feel, and especially the weight, of each of the books; a kind of intimacy brought through the physical holding of the content at hand. A satisfying experience of turning pages, and a visceral reminder for me of being in a body. A shared encounter between me and this body of work. An experience of being with, as opposed to sitting in front of. An experience of a deep and quiet exchange as opposed to the feeling of being in the midst of a loud and unruly crowd.

This experience always serves to remind me that I am, in fact, embodied; immediately changing me from the one who is hunched over and robotically pecking away, to the one who stands in herself and holds something vast and significant in her hands. Weirdly enough, I even love the old book smell. I love knowing that these texts have been around for a very long time, and that other people that I am connected with have held and used these books in the past. Just as I am doing now.

Most of all, I always feel more myself when I am done. More in my body. More slowed down. More me. And sometimes I even get the added benefit of being taken on a ride, a flight of fancy, into unknown places as my eye catches other words along the way that teach, inspire, connect, inform, and sometimes even offer the most astonishing of synchronicities.

Truly, I cannot imagine writing without these books. I cannot imagine risking the loss of not only all that they give me in any given moment, but also all that they represent. As in, a most exquisite and quintessentially human experience of being alive.

Isn’t this all exactly the point here? To find ways, in our own way, to stay human in the midst of all of this? To be the ones who decide what gets to stay and what gets to go? To be the ones who get to choose what things are worth keeping? Not because they make sense through the lens of modern day ease, convenience or progress, but because they just feel good, right somehow, and are therefore, worth keeping.

And so I say, in the spirit of preserving what is truly worth keeping, isn’t being in the daily weight and feel of our own lives one of the most important things we all need to be holding onto?

Keeping The Sabbath

Intense. Strange. Overwhelming. Larger Than Life. Chaotic. Overly Dramatic. Extreme. Over The Top. Violent. Sexualized. Disturbing. Undermining. Noisy. Fast-Paced. Exhausting. And lots more of the same.

These are the words that come to my mind as someone who was recently watching TV,  while being that same someone who has lived within our home without TV for many years. These are the words and feelings of someone not used to this experience anymore. This is what I go through though each and every time I get back in front of it again; which I usually do several times a year, with the most recent experience being to watch the Patriots in a playoff game.

Each and every time I get back in front of it again, I have the same thought: What is happening to us? More to the point, what is happening for those of us who never get a break from this? Those of us left to base our thoughts and wants and beliefs on the all too often very strange images coming across a screen?

Most importantly of all, what is happening to the ones growing up now with so much intensity? The ones who will never know anything else but this. The ones believing that this is normal. And maybe even the best that they can hope for around how to spend their lives.

Contrast this to a woman I recently spoke with who keeps the Sabbath. For her this means no electronics for an entire day as part of her observances. And then there is another woman I know who is writing a book on keeping the Sabbath as an approach to living; a way to bring the mindset and practices of this sacred day into the day to day.

Sabbath is defined as a time of rest. And rest is defined as peace of mind and spirit. Is this not what we are all really looking for? More than anything else even? More than even what the almighty screens have to offer?

So how about it? What would it be like to designate a day? Or part of a day to going screen-free. You will need to give yourself enough time to stop feeling as though you are missing out on something. You will need to give yourself enough time to settle in, settle down, and forget about it. To watch how long this takes is, in and of itself, some truly valuable information. Not as a way to scold yourself, or feel bad about your choices. But instead, as an opportunity to see clearly the hold that it has on you, and then to go on to decide whether or not this is OK for you.

Get creative. Maybe your Screen Sabbath means not being in front of anything when you are with friends or loved ones. Maybe it means nothing right before bed or upon awakening. Maybe it means a TV-free night. Maybe it means you leave the emails at work for one or two designated times, and spend the rest of your day, well, working.

Any way you do it, could you imagine creating that all-important old school boundary referred to by some as the Sabbath? A regular time and space in your life when only certain things are allowed in? And as importantly, a time when many things are given no admission at all. Not because they are bad, but because every human being seeks peace of mind and spirit. And because tradition would tell us that one of the ways that we get there is to draw some very clearly defined lines in our lives around the technologies as the royal road to our own version of keeping the Sabbath.

Sent From?

 

I have come to dread receiving an email where it says at the bottom of the message, “Sent from my iPhone.” Why is that you might ask?

Because I can pretty much count on the fact that what I am receiving will be cryptic; even if a much fuller and more in depth response would be more in keeping with the level of the exchange. I can also count on the reply being hurried as the sender squeezes me into some non-existent space between all of the things they are doing and already attending to. I can also count on more mistakes, more misunderstandings, and more misreads because the person on the other end is actually not present or available enough to put their attention on what it is that I have sent them.

And most of all, I dread these four little words because I can pretty much count on feeling somehow let down, cheated even, in the interaction. I feel this way even though the responses come fast and furious. Even though they get back to me at all hours. Even though they put the “cutest and most heartfelt” of emogees in their message, along with characters from a keyboard arranged in such specific combinations as to convey their deepest or most present emotional states to me. Even though it seems like they are making me a priority by responding instantaneously from anywhere; no matter what is happening. No matter what they are already engaged in.

But I don’t feel like a priority. I feel like a bystander to a kind of obsessive preoccupation to a device where I am a means to an end. That end being that I serve as the justification for why so many of us now need to stay glued to our phones. Of course we do, we would say, because that is what is expected of us now. And so we comply, but often in the most meaningless of ways all dressed up as significant. Momentous even.

How about this? Instead of “Sent from my iPhone” we try “Sent from Me?” Maybe then we would take more ownership of our communications; valuing them in the way they deserve to be valued. Maybe we would recognize that this is an exchange between two people. Maybe the quality and the quantity of what and how we send a message would change. Maybe we could even begin to count more regularly on something truly heartfelt and significant.

Or maybe we wouldn’t even send at all. Maybe we would call. Maybe we would visit in person. Maybe we would wait until we had the time and the space to send something worthy of our relationship.

Have we forgotten what we mean to each other? Do we matter so little to one another now that we have become not much more than initiators and recipients of assembly line relating; a kind of speedy, one size fits all, generic response system where the “better and the more convenient” the technologies make our exchanges,” the worse our connections become?

I Believe

 

Recently, I attended a pickling workshop taught by a woman from Bangladesh. With her heavily accented English and her old world love for cooking and feeding people, she stands out in a world too busy and too distracted to cook, to spend time with family, or to slow down over what truly satisfies. Her matter of fact and intuitive cooking style was inspirational and authentic; devoid of pretense, expert mentality, or showmanship.

So I guess it should have come as no surprise that, though she had conveyed measurements and ingredient lists to our host who had then gone on to make up recipe sheets, what was on the paper and how she was actually cooking didn’t quite line up. It quickly became clear that she did not cook by numbers. Ever. She was just not a measuring cup, by the book, kind of woman. So much so, that it became kind of a running joke throughout the night about how often what she was actually doing differed from what was on the sheet, with at least one of us asking, “Wait, what did she just do? How much of that did she put in?”

Each time this happened she would sweetly smile and offer up a little shrug. And at one point, really more to herself than to us, she simply stated, “I believe in my hands.” My God, what a concept. What a life instruction in a world too often driven by a “paint by number” mentality; right and wrong according to some external measurement. Some thing or some one else’s version other than our own.

I believe in my hands says I believe in myself. I believe in what I sense and feel. It says I believe in my experience and I believe in something other than what the outside dictates. It says I believe in what nourishes and sustains, and that as sure as these are my hands, this is what I hold to, and this is what I find most dear.

How many of us no longer make the time to cultivate this type of knowing? A knowing, gained through and transcendent of, a specific skill set. Confidence created through the learning, the time spent, and the actual doing. A belief system and an experience of self-trust born out of learning a set of valuable life skills. An approach that truly satisfies and feeds the life of a human being. As well as those they come in contact with.

And how many of our children will never be given a chance to know this kind of experience? A way of being that can only be mastered by actually inhabiting the day to day requirements of the life of a human being. A kind of knowing that can only come from offering yourself up to something with love. A way of life that can only be had over years and years of devoting yourself to something truly worthwhile. And in the end, a way of inhabiting ourselves from the inside out; developing the kind of inner authority necessary for a life well lived and for valuable contributions made.

A kind of knowing, by the way, that will never, ever, come out of  a life squeezed off because of modern day busyness requirements or preferences for a screen.

When we are considering all that the screen technologies, along with the demands of keeping up, are offering to us and our children, can we also remember to consider what is being lost? All of the things that will never show up on a report card, which school you got into, what job you get, or what gets measured in a research study, simply because we did not know, or remember, to include them? And because there are just some things, the most important things, that can never be measured by an outside source, or ever known through our recently screen-obsessed myopic focus on what we are making most important in the living of our lives.

What do you believe in? What do we want our children to believe in? Do our day to day choices reflect these vital and necessary beliefs? Or are we living and teaching belief systems based on an inhumane pace along with lives filled to the brim with what is most decidedly not human? Not nourishing. Not the recipe for a life well-lived.

 

Why Are You Here?

 

Last semester, while my college class was in the midst of our unit on Technology and Well-Being, the students were practicing mindfulness around how they used their devices. Students were reporting back that they mindlessly, and “for no reason,” found themselves obsessively picking up their phones looking for something; though too often they felt as though they could not name exactly what it was that they were looking for. This left them spending hours and hours checking and scrolling; even though there was nothing they were particularly interested in. Even though they recognized the time that they were wasting, and all of the ways that they were not getting to what they needed to be getting to.

Or more to the point, receiving any satisfaction around what it was that felt as though it just needed to be satisfied.

One student spoke of a remedy she had devised to combat this incessant and unconscious habit. She taped a sticky note to the back of her phone with the words; “Why am I here?” It was not until recently, after recounting this tip to a new class, that the enormity of the enormity of the question really hit me.This was not merely a question posed to help someone pause in order to become more conscious of their choices around technology. Instead, this is the most fundamental, far-reaching, and essential question that any of us can ask of ourselves. Ever.

To choose to make this so visible, so front and center in the day to day, is nothing short of revolutionary in a world gone mad with forgetting the value and the importance of why it is that we are actually here. For in truth, we are talking about nothing less than this when it comes to how we are living our lives; most especially around how we are choosing to use the technologies.

Do you know why you are here? Are you the least bit interested in why you are here? Do you even know you are here at all?  

And if you are, why would you ever give that precious knowing and exploration over to a machine? Why would we ever train our children to believe that their net worth, their very reason for being here, is based on what phone they own, what picture they post, or how many levels they have reached?

Friction

 

It isn’t supposed to be like this. This isn’t supposed to be happening. This isn’t supposed to be here. It’s not supposed to be so difficult, so… How many times a day do we think or believe some version of that? Some story around how things should, or could, or must be, different. Other, than how they actually are.

If it would all just go our way immediately and seamlessly, be more to our liking, then, finally, things would be better. Easier. More of what we really deserve, need, or want.

But what if there is a reason? What if there is a point for all the stuff we do not like or want? What if we are not far-thinking enough to know that not having it as we want it, when we want it, is precisely what we need; for one reason or another. And what if, finding a way to include all of the things that we do not want, serves as an avenue for getting clearer on what we really do want, believe in, or value? What if what we want, and do not want, are two inseparable sides of a necessary coin?

Likely there is not a single one of us who has not lived through what we did not want. What we found to be harmful, disappointing, overwhelming, frustrating, offensive, and more. Something that we felt just should not be as it is. And then, how many of us, by living through what it was that we did not want, come to have a clearer picture of what we really did want. That there was a gain to be had by being in association with something that made us uncomfortable. Something we found undesirable. Impossible. Unbearable. Difficult. Inconvenient.

But now, as “luck and good fortune” would have it, it seems as though we are about to be in the historically “enviable” position of being the first humans beings on the planet to live a “friction-less existence” as promised to us by the makers of Siri, Alexa, and other technological personal assistants. It seems we are on the threshold now of an existence that will no longer require us to put up with the things in daily life that we find inconvenient, require too much of our effort, or that try our patience. That our smart new assistants will pave the way for a friction-free life. And we will finally be happy. Free of everything that disturbs.

Is this an ideal we should be aspiring to? Is this a value we want to pass onto the generations to come? And when we are considering all that we are gaining here, in the true fashion of looking at both sides of the coin, what does the other side say in terms of what we might be losing?

In discovering what is being lost, can we then go on to claim what we never want to let go of in the first place?

Of course, none of the ads for our new and improved lives with our ever-available, on-call assistants will ever mention that even with all of our new ease and conveniences, happiness remains ever more an inside job. One that is born of our own making, and one that by nature cannot be had by whisking away what disturbs. One that cannot be promised to us by another. Even if that other is as “smart” and infallible as a machine.

It is also worth considering that in modern times we are equating never having to wait to receive a purchased online good, having immediate access to any song ever written, or any question we might have be spoken aloud and answered instantaneously, with what makes for an amazing life. A redefining of our lives is occurring here through the screen technologies that presupposes life would be better if we should never want, or wait, be disturbed, or go without.

Is this true, possible, or even desirable to expect?

 

Inspired by The Abraham Teachings

We Belong To Each Other

 

I have been teaching at the college level for more than a decade. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me on so many levels. And yet, I am back wondering again, as I have been over the past couple of years, just how long I will continue in this role given the accelerating changes I am seeing in the students who are showing up before me.

Over the years, I have witnessed a noticeable decrease in attention. I have watched as they have grown increasingly sleep deprived. I have born witness to the growing attitude that they would rather be elsewhere, and doing other things; mainly, and by their own admission, wanting to get back into bed, back to a screen, and more often than not, both. I have felt and heard of their lack of interest and enthusiasm for the college experience. I have observed in the halls during the times between classes how they are more interested in being bent over a device than they are in hanging out with friends, or taking a moment for themselves.

While all of this has been, rightly so, cause for much concern, truly it pales in comparison to what I have been up against in one of my classes this semester. That being behavior that would be more “appropriate” to middle school (if that case can even be made), than it is to college seniors. I have been required daily to handle such things as students talking when another is talking. Students who are more interested in their side conversations than they are in paying attention to what is being taught. Along with students who regularly miss class, and come late without a thought to check in with me, or explain why.

As appalling as all of this has been, it gets worse. Much, much worse. A core group of students from this particularly difficult class have been regularly smirking and nudging each other, quite openly I might add, over another student in class whose very way of being they have deemed worthy of their ridicule. Their disdain and disregard for this student’s basic worth and humanness has been ongoing. Their complete lack of awareness has been chilling; right down to the fact that they do not even possess the common sense and the decency to know that if they are making a choice to demean another, they should at the very least be making attempts to hide what they are doing. That at least would be a step up for it would demonstrate that they knew what they were doing was wrong. But no such thing has been in evidence.

Despite a number of interventions on my part, this has continued.

And so last week, when it occurred again, I asked the student who was being targeted if he would do me a favor and get something from my car. I did this so that I could speak to the class without him being present. and therefore potentially, humiliated. Once he was gone, something inside of me erupted with such force that I had to pace the room and pause regularly to keep up with the intensity of what was moving through me. I remember very little of the specifics of what I said, but what I do remember was the poignancy of my hand over my heart and the message: We belong to one another. And what is being done here is unconscionable, and will not continue.

In this time of terrible and caustic lack of basic human decency and civility toward one another, whether in the real world or the virtual one, it has trickled down and is overtaking our children. What will become of us when there no longer exists a generation who has the basic foundations for how to respect another human being? A kind of respect that both includes and honors our differences. And one, by the way, that cannot be remediated through programs offered, but that must be lived, taught, and demonstrated in our homes and in our communities.

Do you know what the kicker is? The student who was being targeted, when I took him into the hall to ask him if he would do me a favor, worriedly looked at me and said, “Did I do something wrong? Am I in trouble?” I can barely think on this as the injustice around the person being harmed being the very same one wondering whether or not they have done something wrong, scrapes at me so deeply as to be almost unbearable.

Postscript: Not one of the students, directly or indirectly, involved in making fun of this student has yet to step forward. I find this to be perhaps the most troubling of all. For as human beings we are sure to make many, many mistakes with one another. We can absolutely count on that. Therefore, the true reveal of our character and mettle is born out of and demonstrates itself in our ability to self-correct when confronted with the truth of what we are doing. To re-do, re-work, and make repair for the mistakes and the atrocities we create with one another.

And yet, in this case, not one has stepped forward. Not one.

 

(Thank you to Vici for nudging me along on this one.)

Ignorance And Addiction

 

Ignorance: the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

Addiction: compulsive need for and use of a habit forming substance.

One of the requirements of the college course that I teach is that the students must leave any and all devices in their bags in the room next door. I instituted this policy years ago for several reasons. One. As long as the devices are around, on or not, the screens and what they offer is what the students are thinking about. Two. They can be on their devices 24/7, but they can only do what we are doing in this class twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes. Three. As the grown up in the room I have determined that this is an essential boundary to create so that the learning environment is honored and protected; giving the students a chance to not only engage in a direct way with what we are doing, but as importantly these days, to know themselves separate from the pull and the distractions of the devices.

This week, a new player arrived on the scene: the iWatch.

After class, it came to my attention that two students were checking their iWatches while we were in the midst of doing a relaxation technique. As I was describing this to my husband later that day, he said to me “That is so disrespectful.”  I admit that when I was thinking about this behavior the word “disrespectful” did cross my mind, but I realized quickly that what these students had done had absolutely nothing to do with respect.

An issue of respect would have been a step up on their part. It would have implied that they knew something and could act on that knowing. It would have meant that they knew to value and esteem what was happening in the room, and could tailor their actions accordingly. It would have required that they understood how their behavior might be impacting others, even if they themselves did not value what was happening in class. It would have necessitated understanding that a teacher would expect their full attention. Most of all, it would have challenged them to see that their life was worth far more respect than many of them give themselves, and that learning a way to relax held the potential of improving their lives.

But do you know what I am seeing? I am seeing that they do not even know that it is disrespectful. Or that they do know, and that they just cannot help themselves. I do not know which is worse. Because either way, what we are talking about here is a familial and societal breakdown around the essential role we as the grown-ups are meant to play in the lives of our children. A role that requires that we both teach them what to value and respect, while protecting them from their own ignorances as well as untoward external influences.

Instead, we are failing to educate and impart the most basic and important types of knowledge and levels of awareness to our children. Simultaneously, we are cultivating, or at least colluding with, addiction.

Where have all the grown-ups gone?