Paying attention: hard lesson from a smart phone

6 Nov

I do love my new iphone. It’s the first “smart phone” I’ve ever had, and though I resisted becoming constantly tethered to the web, I must say it’s very handy now that I have it. And the map function? After attending an evening outdoor concert recently, my husband and I got disoriented in a dark park we thought we knew, as everything took on an unfamiliar sinister cast. To the rescue, like a modern day trail of breadcrumbs, the iphone guided us out of the woods with ease.  Yes, I’ve been smitten with its many charms.

But now, after traveling out of state with my trusty new companion, I realize that with this smart phone, I’ve become dumber in some ways. Though I’m usually a decent navigator, I got lost at five times between Sacramento and Stockton California, and again in Portland when I returned, because I didn’t bother to orient myself before I set out. I knew I had the phone to rely upon, to take the place of my innate sense of direction, watchfulness for landmarks and landscapes, and forethought. As a consequence, however, it took me much longer to realize my mis-turns, and my jaw was pulsating sore by evening from having been clenched so much en route.

The darn phone had become such an assumed source of reliable information, that I had stopped thinking for myself. And this got me to reflecting on the broader use of assumptions to guide our actions, rather than relying our power of observation and other senses.  In this era of abundantly accessible information from all over the world, it’s more important than ever to be intentional in heeding what’s right in front of us, what’s directly accessible to us through our own attentiveness.  No technological marvel can replace that source of wisdom and guidance.