Look up

Take your gaze away from the screen for just a second...

In the modern era, those of us whose vocation is classed as part of the 'knowledge economy' spend many hours, day in, day out, staring into screens—I'm doing it right now, so are you.

When we aren't scrutinising a word document or a spreadsheet on our computers, we are likely scrolling on a mobile app that drains our attention away like a vampire on blood.

If we aren't on our computers or our phones, maybe we are watching something on Netflix.

Either way, screens are ubiquitous in our lives. Of course, this has only increased in the past two years for reasons that do not require explaining.

There are many positives to these screens and the technology behind them. But personally, I find them overly draining if used for anything more than a few hours each day. Therefore, I try to minimise my screen time as much as possible, and when I am using a screen, I try to make sure the activity is volitional (e.g. writing a newsletter, or searching for information, doing my work efficiently).

I minimise my screen time by not having a television in the house. I'm lucky that my cohabitant is happy not to have a tv too!

I AVOID THE NEWS like it is the plague. The news is one of people's most significant attention drains; exiling it from my life gives me a lot more brain space and removes a chunk of useless screen time from my life. It generally means I have a one-up on those that do read the news as they're simply giving themselves something inconsequential to their own lives to waste time and energy on (think about that..).

I try to reduce my email time. However, I have a lot of work to do in this area. Email is definitely a time-suck for me, and you too if you're reading this. Sorry.

One of the threads throughout my posts is this idea of society expecting constant activity and 'doingness' of us. We are all supposed to be ON, 'plugged in', "busy", all of the time. "How are you doing?" has long replaced, "How are you?"

Some people even greet one another with the confronting statement, "Working hard!" It's literally not even a question, much less a prompt to share your emotional state. 

'Working hard' is synonymous with being 'good'.

Those who are constantly doing, doing, doing, keeping busy, busy, busy, are those who are of the highest moral standard... aren't they? They're just so darn great! Look how busy I am! I'm practically a God! 

Well, no.

After a few years of such behaviour, they mostly end up in a psychologist's office or requiring counselling. 

I don't blame the individual necessarily. As previously mentioned and also wrote about, our society encourages this way of acting.

No wonder "mental health" is so dire. 

"Let's throw some money at it, and employ more mental health workers!" says the Government.

Good idea! That way we don't actually have to change anything AND we get more people employed. The sick system of growth can continue. Yipeeeee.

Issues of mental health, like EVERYTHING else, will not be fixed with band-aids. You have to fix the root causes of a problem. We never do this. Never.

This article I read in The Conversation recently on mental health is spot on https://theconversation.com/recruiting-more-mental-health-workers-wont-stop-suicides-preventing-child-abuse-and-neglect-will-171110

Okay, I have really digressed. So to get back on track—although it's encouraged to spend time on our screens, it's not doing us much good!

Recently Anna and I left Sydney for a couple of nights. It was the first time we'd been able to leave in over four months. As much as we love where we live, we both needed a break, and I was keen for this break to be genuinely "unplugged". 

We went to stay in a cabin in the woods. The cabin wasn't 'off-grid', but it was far enough away, and secluded enough to feel like a retreat from our daily lives. It was particularly nice for me to leave home as I spend nearly every waking hour here as, like many, I work from home.

When Anna and I "go away", I always like to go to places that are, preferably, away from you lot. People, I mean. Where there are fewer people, there are fewer problems. Rather than be surrounded by people, we choose to go to locations surrounded by nature.

Once you get away from the city, you immediately feel clearer headed and lighter. In the country, my favourite past time is to make a campfire and sit by it for hours while the sun goes down, and then to spend lots of time afterwards staring up into space.

Nothing makes you feel more insignificant than staring up at the stars. I love that feeling of insignificance. The reminder that nothing actually matters, that nothing is really new, it's all been experienced and happened before. That all of the fictions that man creates and have always created are just that, fictions.

But when you're in the city, it's so incredibly easy to get caught up in the drama and trickery. The chase for more, the games being played. The constant comparison. The signalling and peacocking. Is there anyone who lives in a city that isn't an insecure basket case, constantly comparing themselves?

What we all need more off, much more regularly, is that feeling of awe in our lives. You can get that a bunch of ways. Apparently, many new parents feel it when they look at their newborn. Apparently, you can get it if you take some psychedelic substances (which will hopefully become ubiquitously used in our lifetimes as have been ceremonially practised amongst many groups of humans throughout the world for millennia). But an easy and legal way to get it is to simply look up at the sky or the stars, at a mountain range, or out over the ocean. We are part of nature and instinctually require to be connected to it. It's in our DNA.

Staring at our screens is not a replacement. I've never felt awe scrolling through any app. Have you?

Look up more.