Friday, June 28, 2013


 Have you ever had a toothache? I am sure you have, if not maybe a backache or any one of the other maladies that make you want to wish for a quick relief? What happens to your mind?

In that question lies the germinal truth of societal distress, anxiety and frustration. Think about it for a minute. If you have a toothache what do you think about? Everyone will answer, “The toothache!” of course.

So what happens to all the best-laid plans in a suffering, well they are shunted into the background. That thought about the presentation before a committee, or the lecture about the biodiversity, jumping genes, proteomics, or whatever floats your boat, all that is transferred from the “panic room” to some obscure and hidden invisible shed. The primary thought is no longer that, but this, the ache. And this ache becomes all consuming! All else is forsaken.

Now play along with me for a while. In our daily schedule, we are tethered to the smart-phones constantly glancing at it to see what new treasure of information has been revealed. In the restaurants, in the bars, in the homes, in the cars or in the airplanes, anywhere and everywhere, even the grandma who couldn’t dial the rotary phone once is checking her text messages. Everyone wants to be smarter, more “in-touch,” or simply plain nosey.

You see, and here is the punch line: human capacity to interact with multiple competing arguments is great. That little prefrontal cortex in the brain where all decisions are made can deliver blow after blow, time after time for question after question through the efficiency of experiential reference in quick, reflexive response. This System One as Daniel Kahneman likes to call it, is the “quick and dirty” mode of response. We do it all the time and in dealing with all our daily smart-phone and personal interactions we stump our cause with a rapid-fire decision-making with “Yes go for it!” or “No don’t do that!”.

Ah and here then is the problem, and not a minor one at that. When we are busy carting around a myriad of informatics tailing us at every corner, in every bookstore, in every theater, we lose sight of the “methodical, carefully crafted and understandable” decisions borne out of real reason and thought and resort to those delivered in haste.

For that matter, what about, real pleasure. Enjoying an evening of pleasurable interactions with friends and family suffers the same fate of “quick and dirty” when both eyes are on the smart device and the ears are semi-tethered to the conversation. The nuance of the conversation may only be partially understood and faux pas come rolling out in spades when you ask irrelevant questions and give irrelevant opinions, to the horrors of your spouse.  And she or he quickly responds to protect with, “Oh he/she is under some stress over this new important job, decision etc.” The cavalry protects but cannot fortify the flanks when you keep blurting out inconsequential nonsense. It used to be, that people thought that only “important people” did that sort of thing and such social faux pas were considered the domain of the “rich and famous” but now that medium has been revealed to the masses, the medium of connectivity, and everyone seems to have gone into such unsocial and at times antisocial behavior.

The premise then is the human bandwidth. The information flow has to be narrowed down to a singular concept so that proper understanding is given to select information. When multiple flows of varied information are being funneled through the pipeline and challenging the bandwidth, the responses will also be superficial, inconsequential and varied to the disdain of the company.

So when people boast that they are able to parallel process multiple things at any one time, they are usually “Jacks of all trades!”

This brings us to the tougher question, where will the original thinkers be? Or will there be any? Original thinking requires concepts to develop, time for the thoughts to coagulate, silence away from distraction, patience to persevere through difficulties, logic and reasoning to understand. None of these variables are present in this society where technological ubiquity in the form of a fire hose of information is driving youngsters into a stream of constant linkage, and communication has shrunk to a LOL!

So in the end, it boils down to the basics… Think of life as a pleasant evening out for dinner with your friends and the social interactions as a gift.

Learn to live your life through the real lens of your eye than through the lens of someone else’s words being displayed on a screen. See the world as it is than as someone else wishes you to see it. There is a richer, more beautiful world out there in all its glory waiting to be rejoiced for its multitudes of bounty better than the photo-shopped picture on the screen. It is time to take a breath. It is time to live!

As Spock would say, “Live long and Prosper!”

Or as your grandmother used to say before the touch-tone thing came into being, “Take the time to smell the roses.”

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