T.I.L.T. #139 — Slow Down For A Good Time

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Something interesting has been happening recently in my life. I’ve been relearning how to live at a slower pace. You see, the last few years my brain has felt more and more cluttered, fractured, and pulled in 1001 directions at once. In short, in this infinite information age, I have come to suffer from information overload.

I could blame technology. The rise of computers and then the internet and now handheld devices of all kinds connected to the all-knowing cloud have made a mobile feast we can all gorge ourselves on all day, all night, all the time. If we so choose. And that’s where my own culpability comes into play. I buy the gadgets, I turn them on, I tune into the various screens that are all around me in my professional, public, and personal life. I take a walk in a beautiful place with my gorgeous wife and I’m somehow more interested in making sure I take a good ‘selfie’ of us to document and share with the world that, hey, we were there, than just stopping, slowing down, and enjoying being there with the most important person in the world to me.

I wasn’t always this way. I remember visiting the Grand Canyon about twenty-five years ago. I didn’t have any gadgets then. Not even a camera. It was just me and my eyes and my brain. And you know what? I remember it really well. I have to because it’s the only record I have of that experience. As I was standing there, admiring one of the most amazing views I have ever seen, a group of Japanese tourists showed up, chattering away, and taking countless photos. One guy had a big VHS cassette video camera — ultra high-tech at the time. He had his one eye closed and his other glued to the viewfinder. He walked up to the edge of the canyon and exclaimed, “OH! AH! OH!” and panned his camera left and right, and zoomed this way and that, and then turned and walked away.

He never took his eye away from the camera. He never stopped and opened both eyes and simply admired the view. He never actually saw the Grand Canyon. And even though he may have captured an impression of it for posterity, he has no memory of it like I do.

I thought it was pathetic to be honest. I judged him a fool for not paying attention to what was around him. Ha, ha, ha. Judge not lest ye be judged, right? Fast forward twenty-five years and voila, here I am glued to gadgets and failing to pay proper attention to all sorts of things.

Professionally I take my laptop to meetings because it is more ‘efficient’ to put tasks or notes directly into the IT systems I use to manage my numerous work projects rather than take notes on paper and then have to transfer them manually later—

Wait. Sorry. I just got interrupted. My phone is vibrating in my pocket. Someone wants my attention. Let’s see who it is. Would you believe my wife is texting me from the bedroom? Seems I missed a couple of calls from her too. No, I’m not making this up. This actually just happened. Be right back – I’d better go see what she wants.

Hello, I’m back and it’s five minutes later. Wifey is enjoying sleeping in today and wanted some cuddles and affection. Which is perhaps one of the best reasons to use technology to get my attention, but when I asked her why she didn’t just use her voice to call me since I’m just twenty feet away in the living room and certainly would have heard her, she blinked for a moment as if the idea had never even crossed her mind. Her first instinct was to use the phone.

And I guess that’s very fitting for today’s T.I.L.T. since my point is that we have let gadgets creep into our lives and take over. As I was saying before, in meetings I take my laptop in the name of efficiency but in the end I’m distracted by my endless task lists and calendars and the inbox telling me I’ve got mail. I end up not really listening and missing out not only on information, but the pleasure of human interaction.

In public I always have my smarter-than-me phone in my pocket which I cannot help but want to take out and play with every few minutes. It doesn’t matter if I’m on public transport or in a restaurant or out in a park. For some reason I constantly feel the urge to check 1001 important things like Facebook, the Weather Channel, or Google News. Or better yet, I take any chance I can to ‘look something up’ on Wikipedia since God forbid we might actually have enough information in our heads already to have a stimulating conversation with one another without having to read verbatim from websites to each other.

In short, we spend more time with our gadgets then engaging with our surroundings and our fellow-man.

I was in a café by myself recently and was on my phone perusing Amazon. I stopped to sip my coffee and glanced around. The place was full. And everyone was staring down at their smart phones. Even people who were not there by themselves. Some were having conversations but were looking at their phones rather than at each other. It was kind of terrifying. If a naked gunman wearing nothing but a machine gun and a ski mask had walked in, no one would have noticed. If they had, I bet their first instinct would have been to start filming in hopes their deaths would go viral on YouTube.

In private, well, we’re texting each other from within the same apartment. Sometimes even in the same room since it’s somehow more amusing than just talking to each other.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and access to information and learning about all kinds of things in the world any time I want, but somewhere along the way it feels like we took a wrong turn down a very slippery slope. The constant feeding frenzy of info at our fingertips seems to have made us forget to slow down and just enjoy the real world around us.

To help with this, wifey and I have decided to slow down a bit by changing some of the technology around us. For her birthday I bought her a record player which plays real albums. Not only is the sound quality better with a broader range tones, but the act of having to remove an album from its cover, place it on the player, clean it, then push an analog button with a nice click which engages the turntable to spin and the arm to slowly raise and place the needle into the groove of the first track, is really an enjoyable and satisfying experience. And then in about five songs or so, you have to get up, flip it and start the process over. The act of listening to music has become active and alive again rather than the passivity of endless playlists on all our digital gadgets.

The other thing that really captures the idea of trying to slow down is a new wrist watch my wife gave me as a surprise gift. It’s called a Slow Watch. It only has one hand and a 24-hour clock face. See the photo above. It essentially does away with seconds and minutes and only offers fifteen-minute increments as the smallest denominator. Your view of time becomes more about the day as a whole and encourages you to take your time and slow down and engage more with the world around you.

A few months ago I was all curious and eager about the Apple Watch since it’s supposed to revolutionize what we think a watch can be, but I can tell you now that I have no intention of getting one anymore and really like the opposite revolution suggested by the Slow Watch. Yes, I’m going to slow down and enjoy doing things in more old-fashioned ways when the pace of life was based more on human speeds than internet speeds.

Hmmm, maybe I should replace my laptop with a typewriter. But then how would I get my T.I.L.T. out into the internet information flood?

Hey, wait a second . . .

Hmmm.

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