Sorry if there is anyone out there who actually reads my posts on a regular basis. If there is, they might suspect this is all very similar to some of my other posts. It’s just that I have recently got stuck on one theme, that of meditation and its close cousin, conscious living. My excuse is that this blog records my ongoing thoughts on such things, not a fixed credo that I worked out long ago.
I think you can spend your time either being ‘here and now’ or drifting off into your own thoughts. Under the category of ‘your own thoughts’ I include watching TV, reading books, surfing the internet, daydreaming and doing crossword puzzles since these all require that you forget where you actually are, or even that you exist at all. These are activities from which you come to at intervals and realise that you are not, in fact, in Albuquerque in New Mexico with Walter White, but watching a TV program called Breaking Bad in your living room in England.
If you are gazing out over a dramatic landscape or are on a first date with someone you have been mad about for ages, you probably won’t feel tempted to whip out a novel or ipad to better fill the time. Instead you might want savour every moment. (I discount adolescents from this, as well as people with adolescent minds, since these will almost certainly wish to be on their iphones, regardless of the situation).
Wishing to open up your rucksack and pull out a crossword puzzle while standing on the top of a mountain with a beautiful panoramic view suggests that you are not really into panoramas. Conversely, remaining aware that you are sitting in an armchair in the East Midlands while watching TV suggests that you are not really into the program you’re watching. And being caught between the two worlds of reality and imagination seems to me worst of all possible worlds. As Big John Cannon used to say in The High Chapparal, ‘You can only ride one horse at a time’.
I tend to think that if the interaction of your genome with your life experiences has wired your brain to form someone who prefers to drift away into his own thoughts, then what is there to object to? There seems to me to be a logic behind who you become and though some people might tell you that you should be different, this is a little like telling you you should prefer caviar to hamburgers. But if you don’t, you don’t and there is no ‘should’ about it.
Even so, once in a while a small voice in your head might whisper that you have been formed by the culture around you and your culture might just be rubbish. And unlike your taste buds, you probably can, within limits, learn to like other ways – dare I say it, better ways – of spending your time. After all, habit plays a large part in your preferences and some habits are formed by chance and are just plain bad.
Of course, there may be good reasons why you choose to bury your head in computers and books. One such reason could be to educate yourself. Uneducated people probably have no inkling as to just how uneducated they are and are thus more prone to the complaisant belief that all they know is all there is to know. Their ‘unknown unknowns’ contain many things that for most people are either ‘unknown knowns’ (the speed of light) or ‘known knowns’ (the Earth orbits the Sun).
And reading isn’t only good for educational purposes. Surely the writings of Shakespeare, George Eliot, Charles Dickens, Vladimir Nabokov and Jeffrey Archer have made the world a richer place, as have the nature documentaries of David Attenborough or the factual documentaries of the History Channel. If these things have only helped to make the world a more interesting place, then why shouldn’t someone spend their time immersed in them?
Well, put like that, I don’t know. It’s just that, like Neo in The Matrix, I feel that living in a virtual world is not really living. There should be enough of interest in the world around you without needing to resort to virtual entertainment. I’m sure nothing is ever gained without something being lost, though at this moment it is hard to see precisely what it is that we are losing. Perhaps it will become clearer once we have lost it completely.
Of course, if I were undergoing a painful operation without anaesthetic or being tortured by some lunatic, then I would grab at anything that was likely to take my mind off the reality of my present situation. But is everyday life really that bad or that boring that we need to be so often distracted from it?