Are We Being Destroyed by Our Distraction?

Our lives are sad and they are beautiful. They are suffering and elation. They are the summation of all things. And if we don’t reduce distraction by way of our devices, our lives will die a painful and preventable death. 

Louis C.K. tells Conan O’Brien he doesn’t want to get a cell phone for his kids. His delivery­­ is not the most articulate. It is authentically Louis––raw and uncouth. But, in his message is a rare gem––a token we are too infrequently gifted. In this brief segment, Louis unapologetically takes a hammer to the hard facade of our societal acceptances to bear what is most precious.

I invite you to watch this interview and let his somewhat blundering presentation pour over you. Here was my take-away.

Our phones have birthed an addiction of epic proportions and with lethal ramifications. We are so attracted to this fatal drug, we cannot see we are not unlike the alcoholic, whose drink he can’t put down, or the smoker who would rather inhale nicotine through a hole in their windpipe than to quit.

Drugs, chemicals, toxins, and stress have bred chronic fatigue, chronic inflammation, chronic pain, and chronic disease in our country and in the world. But the silent killer of our phone, the one I believe is most terrifying, has created a new condition for our modern day, that of chronic distraction.

We are so blinded by the distraction of our devices, we cannot see the way in which we are destroying our connection with others and more importantly, the connection with ourselves. Our cell phones keep us so busy; we cannot stop long enough to be witness to our emotions, and to our state of being.

Consider how often we are distracted during mealtimes, an experience that has historically been held sacred, but is no more. Making eye contact and engaging in conversation with our friends and loved ones during lunch and dinner is no longer enough. We are junkies jonesing for juice and need our fix. We play out our addiction by incessantly “checking in” on Facebook or perusing Instagram in order to know what the meal of our followers looks like.

Like the fix we need during dinner that distracts us from the present moment, the simple act of driving is also no longer enough. It invariably includes moments of silence or long stretches of idleness, something we run away from. They say idleness is the devil’s playground and I say what we choose to do during moments of idleness is. In the case of idleness while driving, we can’t just ‘be’, and instead choose to take a hit of our digital crack –– sometimes once, sometimes twice, but more often than not we chain hit it with continual texting, posting, tweeting, pinning, and hashtagging.

We can’t let our phones just sit there along for the ride. We have to pick up….tap tap tap. Put down. Pick back up…tap tap tap…put back down. This momentary quelling of our incessant need to be in the know, the need to be validated, seen, heard, and included is enough to risk taking the life of another and destroying our own.

We need an intervention.

What’s ironic is we have no problem looking at the smoker, who is dying of emphysema and saying, they are out of their mind. Why don’t they stop? Yet we willingly risk our lives at least a dozen times each day to be in touch with our friends and followers.

And, who are these followers anyway? I liken them to what author, Chuck Palahniuk calls in his book, Fight Club, single-serving friends. They dash into our digital domain, poke us, send an emoji smiley face or deliver a thumbs up (a “like”) and then dash back out. They are one-time uses of validation. And they are not real.

Our phones distract us from what is real, from what is true in each moment. They steal us away from who and what we are inside, because they make us view the outside as so much more interesting.

As Louis says, within us all is that thing…that forever empty. What he is speaking about is the true essence of who we are at our center, our True Self that is okay with being still. It is our inner self, our soul who wishes, for just one moment, that we would stop. That we could just be still and content––free of needing, free of wanting, not seeking approval, not needing to be available, not seeking validation, and not comparing our moments with those of a Facebook friend.

The wisdom in Louis’s rant is that if we are going to be connected and in touch with everyone else, we must also be just as connected, if not more so, with the real, true, loyal and caring friend we each really have, ourselves.

We have to also know the difference between what is emotionally valuable and what is the illusion of emotional value, and we can achieve this by being a witness to all that we are, think, and do.

Like Louis suggests, get in touch with the feelings that are at your center. If you feel sadness…don’t haul ass in the other direction. Stand in front of it and let it run over you like a truck. Allow your inner self to connect with you for a change without dodging your feelings. Be a witness to your emotions without grabbing your device to send a text or Facebook update.

Be in tune enough to let your sadness be met with happiness. Be a witness for the happiness. Let it rush over you. Really feel it. And then laugh out loud in complete appreciation for the sensation of joy. And I mean literally Laugh Out Loud…not LOL.

Be a witness to anger that may be inside you. Shout and yell and get it out. Let the anger be there so that it can be met with peace.

Be a witness to shame and guilt so that they can be met with grace and forgiveness.

Cry. Laugh. Dance. Rock out in your car once in a while, and do so while making eye contact with the driver next to you. Let them think you are weird and crazy. Because you are. Crazy can be thought of as nothing more than being totally present. It can be considered as doing that thing, whatever it is you feel you want to do in any given moment without counteracting your impulse…without filtering. Test what it is like to not filter your emotions. Be still. Let them all be there. Power off enough to be present with them.

Seriously, right now…be still. Power off your phone…do it now. Turn it all the way off––not in airplane mode––not on silent––not on vibrate. Do what I call IEDD––Intermittent Electronic Device Detachment, and let doing so terrify you. Be witness to the fear or anxiety it causes, and let it hit you with a sledgehammer. Really feel it and then check in with this moment. The lights are still on. You have not disappeared. You have not gone unseen. You are here, right now, in this moment and you are okay. You are beautiful. You are connected.

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