To Connect, Must We Disconnect?

To Connect, Must We Disconnect?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

To Connect, Must We Disconnect?

The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that man may become robots.

~Erich Fromm

As the founder of the Agape International Spiritual Center, I tweet and have friended on Facebook thousands of local members and global live streamers. Added to that are social networking conveniences like texting and calling, which keep me connected to staff and family. Oh yes, I definitely enjoy and appreciate the benefits of technology. After all, I couldn’t write this piece without it, nor could I stay in touch as required when traveling to speaking engagements, conferences, and so on. Recently — and in a spirit of honesty it was not by choice — I discovered what a shock it is to the system to be cut off, without warning, from all the mechanisms and systems we depend upon to communicate efficiently and effectively.

Here’s how it all unfolded. Agape’s website was down for over a week. At the same time I was having challenges with my home computer so couldn’t access e-mail or the Internet. “Oh well,” I comforted myself, “there’s always texting and calling.” That’s when things escalated. After a hunt worthy of a search and rescue team, my cell phone was nowhere to be found. I had to laugh at myself when I observed a slight panic arising at feeling disconnected from the outside world. It was a good time to have cultivated the tools of an accomplished yogi: clairvoyance, telepathic communication, and bilocation. Not being quite there, I had no other choice but to use my household landline, which felt about as antiquated as sending messages via carrier pigeon!

The upside of my predicament is that by forcibly having been put on “pause,” I couldn’t deny how devouring social media can be. What seemed like utterly natural forms of communicating one moment, when placed under an introspective microscope, revealed not only their addictive potential but also how their misuse is creating what I call a “high-tech, low-touch” society. Interruption technologies have become the norm. Just go out to dinner and see how children are occupied playing games on their iPads while their parents text and talk on the phone, all of them rarely sharing eye contact or personal conversation.

Neurologists, sociologists, psychologists and other pundits are issuing warnings about the Age of Distraction in which we live. They aren’t casting blame on social media itself; how can they since it is we who have self-responsibility for how and when we use it? We hear in the news about accidents caused by a metro engineer texting or a driver injuring someone — sometimes fatally — by texting just one trivial word. Perhaps T. S. Eliot realized the timelessness of his words when he wrote, “We are distracted from distraction by distraction.”

The message that was driven home to me is that there is a time to disconnect, to curb the insatiable appetite for where the next click might lead. Simply put, equal commitment must be given to connecting to the “inner-net.” Just as in the outer world we learn to adjust to ever-advancing technology, so must we equally participate in the inner world of ever-evolving consciousness. Practices such as meditation, affirmative prayer and visioning keep us centered, present to the now moment. They synchronize body, mind and spirit and are the antidote to the seduction of distraction, constant interruption and multi-tasking. Above all, they awaken the Essential Self. And for that there exists no technological substitute.

~Michael Bernard Beckwith

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