Relating in the Digital World

For my solar return, my teenage niece came to spend a few days with me here at the SF bay area. Initially I had imagined that I would teach her the bus and train system, but what transpired was another kind of learning and teaching for both of us.

She grew up in the digital age while I began traveling before there was any internet. I wanted to show her some of the iconic places in SF from having lived here for 18 years. While in the Golden Gate Park, she was already on her phone looking at the best ice cream nearby. Of course we went there even though parking took longer than anticipated. Her cell phone video was poised to take a video of the special way they were laying out the ice cream to make it creamier and rolling it into little flowers. To be posted on social media of course. While we sat waiting for our turn, everyone else had their phones doing the same thing. Afterwards, we sat eating ice cream on the stairs outside.

While lost in the East bay, she quickly got on her GPS to search for restaurants of which i am thankful for! Upon sitting looking at the menu at the Cambodian restaurant, she quickly decided what she was going to have. I asked how she chose that one as this was her first time eating Cambodian food. Well, while i was looking over the menu, she was looking at yelp and the yelp review recommended this dish, she said.

It had perplexed me how different our two modes were. I tend to be more gregarious and talk with live strangers in front of me and ask them for directions or recommendations locally rather than relying on the internet. I use the internet of course, but for different reasons. I also tend to be more adventurous in trying something completely new. Most individuals want something not too different from the known. Just enough different but still within the range of the popular of course. As my niece stated, you post things to get “likes”. I must admit, I was never very good at that game of popularity. In fact, in my face book, I don’t even look at the “likes”. It is the comments I respond to as there is something and someone for me to engage with. “Likes” feel empty to me. Also a lazy way of being connected. Sometimes, it feels insulting to me especially when I have shared something that I feel has depth. Of course, most people today are better in “surfing” and “ghosting”. That means staying on the surface, and disappearing without a word. It is the “cultural etiquette” in a time where virtues and values don’t matter much. Or perhaps, it is the changing value that I experience.

I have seen at times people referring to the web bringing in an evolution in consciousness. I am not so clear about that yet. For one thing, the flourishing of the web is founded on business profit for a few – that is not very different nor evolved than what we have done in the history of mankind. From my research of technologist Jaron Lanier, it actually looks like economic feudalism. Yes, we can do research, find out things but how many people look beyond the first or second page of google? Although technology advertises to connectivity, I don’t experience it as true connections. Instead I see people doing all different activities that they usually would do outside with others and using different positions of their body (and therefore their minds) now doing it in front of a computer or a cell phone with a less varied differentiation of their physicality. Examples would be: ordering on eBay or amazon, watching a movie, connecting to a dating site and having sex all on the same gadget on the same desk in the same room.

And I noticed that when I would think of someone who I have mostly communicated with via an online gadget, the body would mimic the posture and habitual configuration of contractions as an association with them. It simply doesn’t have the nuance or the wide spectrum of facial expressions that I have when i spend time outside in different activities with another human being. For example, someone i texted a lot, when i think of him, my recollection is texting hunched back forward, chin down finger texting, eyes squinting to read message – this is how this particular person is registered in my brain and body. How unnatural is that! And does not meet at a fuller representation of that unique human being.

It is mechanized and also functional. Not relational. And yet, this becomes more and more the norm for relating. It is sad. And little emojis and emoticons are supposed to change that by adding a bit of complexity and bubbles to the heart!!

I am more a systems type person. Let me describe what that means to me. It means when I spend time with someone by the lake, I notice how the breeze plays with his/her hair and how the light of the setting sun catches a glimmer on their shoulders. I notice the way he/she touches the rock before she throws it into the water. I listen to the silent presence as we both partake of all the creatures that come to drink and take refuge by the lake as we are. It’s all about relationships. I listen to the hesitancy or the fidgeting of the fingers or the open marvel to being connected or not to the system that we are in together. I smell the strawberry he/she is eating and hear the grumbling of the tummy. This kind of curiosity is delicate. It requires time, patience, a willingness to not know. When people only have a set amount of time with each other, there is a tendency to fall into a reductionistic and mechanistic way of approaching each other. It demands the whys as in an interview. From my perspective, demanding information is a cruder way to be in the world and be in relationship with another being, not just a human being by the way.

In what purports to be a connected, transparent world, I find a very disconnected, disembodied group of people who are constantly under surveillance searching for validation through “likes” and emoticons. In our bid for safety, we are willing to be in surveillance. In need of parental figures, somehow we never quite figure our how to develop an internal compass of what is right and wrong. We eternally remain as children, not taking ownership of responsibility nor freedom. It is a world becoming more and more lacking private time as every aspect of one’s life is publicized either by one’s self or the internet algorithms that monitor all the websites we click, all the barcodes that are scanned in the stores. I find people less likely to have a conscience, more or less a morality, unless it is monitored by social media (if that). People and relationships have simply become commodified, valued for its functionality in a narcissistic and self absorbed world. It saddens me that more and more gadgets are proclaimed and sold to the public so gullible for connection, yet end up with dry pieces of disconnected information about each other rather than true intimacy. Perhaps, because more people are lonely and afraid of intimacy that we settle for these breadcrumbs – mere memes we reify our being pegs in a machine.

In my doctoral studies years ago, we congregated around the topic of spiritual intelligence and once the issue of virtue was addressed, there was a derision and rejection of it. Fascinating to me as a humanist that a group of intellectuals so easily rejected virtue without necessarily transmuting our very own shadows around conscience and regulation that human connections are based on care for each other. If competition is solely the mark for getting ahead in this society, then what happens when we get sick, we age, or inevitably at some point in our lives, our cherished relationships end or suddenly our jobs taken away from us? Do we simply fall into deeper isolation, having to be satisfied with emojis on social media when what we desperately need is a real hug or empathic eyes looking at us showing that we belong and we are cared for.

True individuation is predicated on a community of belonging. We individuate not solely to be alone, but to give back to our communities that which we have learnt. We return with our gifts that the whole becomes even richer than if we didn’t. The relationship of the singular to the multiple is reciprocal. But we have forgotten the value of reciprocity for we have commodified and misjudge cost for value. In our obsession with immortality, we forgot that our legacy is meant to feed and nourish the next generation. This is the law of cycle of life. The job of the community is to nurture our unique gifts, to accept and love us even more for that which makes us shine. When the light shines, everyone benefits, especially in the hours of darkness.

What we sorely need is to spend time with each other so we can actually see how we are feeling. Gadgets that mimic our mood states and then declare them to the world are not necessary if we as people actually listen and truly see each other. In-to-me-see is what intimacy is about. Let and allow me-to-see-you. Heisenberg’s law states that an act of observation produces changes to the observed. Caring does that. Reciprocity does that. Isn’t life about sharing our highs and lows together? Isn’t it about lending support to each other?

So how is this related to you? I have a scientific mind that looks at anything systemically so let us break this down for easier consumption.

When you prefer to text or email to someone around a personal matter, is it with the intention of being closer to the other? Is it because it is more efficient? In what way? Or is it a way you navigate your own terrain of emotionality and hide behind a torrent of feelings that you need somehow to express in a trickle rather than a full disclosure and transparency? Is it a way to say what you want without any immediate ramification beyond the simple objectification of the other in your mind? Screens tend to do this. So what happens when we use the digital world as a veil between ourselves and others? A veil between ourselves and our inner terrain even? How much do we just experience emotion? Expressing in a text or Facebook doesn’t necessarily mean we are expressing. We might simply be managing our digital presence, maintaining a curated image of our compartmentalization. Of course, if that is all we want to experience of ourselves, then so be it. However, in my experience speaking with so many people, this isn’t what nourishes us.

We want to love. We want to care. We want to belong. We want to include and be included. We want to connect. I mean really connect. Somehow, many are lost in the labyrinth of the digital world we now live in. Somehow, the emotional maturity of a young tech man who is socially uncomfortable has created a world that one feels more secure hiding behind the screen. We can ascertain that we each have a part that is so, and yet, if we keep caving in to this way mostly, are we ever going to develop and cultivate those parts of ourselves that are relational? Do we even want to overcome this xenophobia that takes risks in order to be known in ways unimaginable to us…yet? In Japan, it appears that people prefer to have robots take care of the elderly over Southeast Asian immigrants being caregivers. Is this simply a love of artificial intelligence (AI) or/and a way the Japanese reifies its xenophobic history and beliefs? How much is this true of us? Our culture? Of you?

Part of being incarnated as a human being is to be embodied. To be touched in all ways of the senses. To touch another. To be touched by another. To come home into our bodies where our perineums are relaxed, our feet planted on the earth, the vast horizon embracing our vision while the breeze and space saturates our being ness.

In the journey of the soul and the process of individuation, even chronic illness or what appears to be tragic, becomes a path for our transformation. Because we are connected, our personal tragedy (an accident/an injury) that may even incapacitate us may allow another human being to step in and be strong for us in the moment when we can’t. The gift of giving and receiving affects all of us. We take turns in all aspects of life, in spite of our desperation and need to be right, to be strong, to be efficient, to be the manager, the controller, the give it whatever name you give your superhero or villain.

I am not a Luddite. I value technology for all what it has given me. After all, my work involves long distance healing to people all over the world. I communicate with you who live all over the planet. I find in a typical day the bending of my mind. And I like that morphing for truly our world is a constant state of flux. That is the reality. We can verify that. All you have to do is be quiet and experience it. This is what it means to be involved in a scientific enquiry, not just accepting science as a religion. Often, I find many people in the latter who claim to be scientific although I do not experience their scientific enquiry in arriving at their beliefs.

So how do you bring all aspects of yourself that wisdom is cultivated and the community that you are a part of can share your gifts with each other?

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Website Protected by Spam Master