“[O]ur brains have always outraced our hearts. Our science charges ahead, but our souls lag behind.”
– Lee Adama, from the series finale of Battlestar Galactica
A few months ago I was driving on a Los Angeles freeway and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a light-brown, curly-haired puppy dog. The dog was so happy and joyful, that for a second I had forgotten that this was not the context in which one normally sees a puppy dog prancing along.
But before I could even process the fear about what was inevitably about to happen, it was too late: I had zoomed forward in my modern vehicle and it was only in my rear view mirror that I witnessed the sad fate of my poor friend–and it all happened in less than a matter of seconds.
I will spare you describing the event in detail not only because it would be cruel, but because, sadly, many of you may have witnessed this type of tragedy yourself, and, most certainly, all of you have seen its aftermath: who has not seen the traces of these lovely creatures, barely recognizable, on the side of the road? We pretend we don’t know what those traces once were, lest we remind ourselves that these lifeless forms were once full of love and happiness.
This lovely little dog’s demise was a consequence of our need for modernity. He was unable to catch up to us, and so, like what happens with all those who can’t catch up to our lighting speed ways of being, he was run over and left to be removed by a group of workers who we pay, through taxation, to quietly and quickly remove all living things who died because they had the nerve to get in our way–to get in the way of our fast-paced modern way of living.
You may think it is silly to be so upset at such “a small thing” as the sudden end of a puppy dog’s life, but if this is so, I would ask you to please check your pulse. Maybe the quick beat of modernity has caused your blood to pump so fast that it now completely skips its movement through the heart.
The Downside of Modernity
Can you Google what the origin of the soul is and find the final, right answer among the search results?
Where, I ask you, can you find an app that will explain to you what the point of unrequited love is?
Is there, I wonder, a tablet that can hold your hand as you grieve the loss of a loved one?
Can Facebook ever guarantee to find you a friend who will go with you to the emergency room when an inexplicable shooting pain goes down your backside and you are terrified of what that pain might be? Or is that not in the list of things they ask people to fill out in one of their little “profiles”? (I mean, does it really matter to me that you like Beyonce and have a thing for argyle sweaters, or is it better that I know that you happen to be a loyal, reliable, and trustworthy friend, who will be with me through the good times and the bad?)
What is posted on online dating sites that contains what we really need to know about the person we potentially want to spend the rest of our lives with?
And when is the last time that you passed over a hug for reading “a Tweet” when you felt lonely?
You see, the downside of modernity is that it seems to fill all our needs, when it only fills all our wants.
And recently we have confused all our wants with all our needs.
For instance, we don’t need to know everything that was ever written on every topic on Wikipedia, we just want to know that. It’s nice to have all that information, sure, but we don’t need it.
What we don’t need is more of what we want.
But that’s all that modernity seems to give us these days.
This is the downside of modernity.
It has its upsides, yes, and I don’t need to argue for those, because the upsides have been (and will continued to be) trumpeted at every technological convention, and in every tech news article, and through the lips of every gadget-lover.
Just to be clear: I have no problem with technology in and of itself. I have no beef with modernity in and of itself.
My problem is with technology’s most recent attempt at overshadowing meditation and contemplation (which it can never be greater than). My beef is with modernity’s most recent attempt at laying a claim on ultimate truth (which it can never acquire, for ultimate truth can only be found in the eternal, and not in the ephemeral, which is the very DNA of modernity.)
My worry and concern is that we are all so distracted by the artificial flash of our digital cameras that we miss the natural glow of a miracle taking place right in front of our noses.
We spend more time anxious about checking our friend’s status online, but we forget to do things that are far more pertinent: like checking the status of our own body and its current health, for instance.
Who needs to take more 2-dimensional pictures on Instagram when what would be better is more 3-dimensional experiences in which we savor ever gram of food and cherish every instant of laughter?
The Next Modern Invention Must Be Rooted In The Ancient
I loved modernity until it started to take my life hostage. I loved modernity until I began to notice its casualties: lovely, innocent beings, like that dog whose happiness was crushed in an instant, before he even knew what was coming.
We’ve sacrificed too much to modernity. It’s time to step back and take a breather.
Maybe it’s time to put the technological revolution on pause for a bit, and let our souls catch up to all these new ways of being.
Maybe the next revolutionary gadget isn’t a gadget at all, but a new state of oneness with everything? Maybe the next tech revolution isn’t in tech and isn’t led by a nerd in Silicon Valley, but by a divorcée Yoga instructor in Philadelphia who’s just had a spiritual awakening? Maybe the next social networking tool isn’t an online site, but a new pledge that we all take together to start slowing down, looking around, and start being truly appalled by the way in which our “modern lifestyles” are affecting our souls, our minds, our bodies, our heart, our communities, our animals, and our planet.
Please, I beg of you, let “the next big thing” be a change of heart, and not a change of cell phones.
Let us all rise up and challenge modernity and its coldness, and its callousness, and its cynicism, and its indifference.
Let us look to ancient wisdom to anchor us in something more powerful and intuitive than a computer you can wear like glasses over your eyes.*
Please, let us give our souls some time to catch up with the lightning-quick changes of modernity.
And please let us do this soon before we are the ones it runs over.
Today’s Courage Exercise
If you are feeling like you are a causality of modernity (or have witnessed another living creature become a causality of modernity), take a breather. Reach out to ancient wisdom and thought to anchor yourself in what truly matters. More importantly: have a conversation with friends and family about this topic. Is this a topic that concerns them, too? If it is, how can you and them affect change?
And if you are a writer, by all means, write your thoughts about it and share it in some place public where others can see it and engage in this topic with you.
*As if we weren’t distracted enough, modernity is overreaching to the point where it doesn’t just want to be a distraction, it now wants to be the very eye in which we see the world. It is disgusting.
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