The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was not reach for my phone. I draw your attention to this because, of all the infinite number of things I also didn't do, this was a break from habit. The first thing I do almost every morning, often before I even urinate, is reach for my phone.
My phone is with me everywhere I go. We used to call them "mobile phones". Now we mostly just call them "phones". It's worth thinking about how - and how quickly - these devices have become such an integral part of our ordinary lives.
I am certainly no Luddite. I love technology and all it has done for us. I am excited about the future that could still be real if we find a way not to render our only planet uninhabitable this century: but the subtler, more insidious ways that tech has weaved its webs is worthy of our consideration. It is usually commented that technologies are simply tools: neither good nor evil of themselves, but only becoming so in the hands of those who use them. This is a reasonable place to start.
Making a conscious decision not to reach for my phone affected the way I experienced the morning in innumerable ways. I left my phone where it was on the windowsill above my bed (always at arm's reach) and wandering into the bathroom for a piss. Then I had a piss, then I made a cup of coffee. Then I took my medication and my inhaler. As the coffee cooled, I had a shower. These are of course completely normal things, as much a part of my routine as reaching for my phone: but somehow, not having reached for my phone coloured the first banalities of the day in surprising ways. My consciousness as yet not stirred by tweets and updates, news and alerts, notifications, likes, and the like, the physicality of drying myself, hanging up my towels, and getting dressed felt a little richer, a little bit more now.
"Now" is very much the thing, I feel. The key to happiness, to joy, to peace of mind, is found in an enriched awareness of the now. We all know that this is, to some extent, true. But it can be hard for us to admit how easy it is to be happy. We prefer a struggle, a challenge. We prefer to be led by others than to trust ourselves.
Which is fine, because there's an app for that.
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