Friday, August 19, 2016

"the pleasures and perils" of technology

Tonight on the PBS NewsHour was aired an interview with German filmmaker Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man; The Cave of Forgotten Dreams) whose latest film, the documentary Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World was released today. He asks “What makes us human? How do we communicate?” Herzog, like myself, does not have a cell phone as a matter of culture. Like me, he wants to be involved with the person across the table with whom he shares a meal and not be available to everyone else all the time.

It is a danger if we teach our children, for example: when preoccupied with our cell phones, that they are uninteresting and unimportant. A parent, chronically disinterested in the experiences of a child, may seriously impede the development of that child’s ‘voice.’ Many years ago, when my younger daughter was in preschool, I observed a sad scene.

Another parent and I drove into the parking lot at the same time. She was on her cell phone. We parked alongside one another. We walked the sidewalk together, into the building together, down the hall, and out the door to the playground area. She was still on her cell phone. I dropped to my knees when I saw my daughter and opened my arms. My daughter ran into them. The other parent did not say ‘hi’ to the little boy she had come for, but took his hand and the four of us retraced our steps. My daughter is telling me of her morning experiences as I buckle her into her car seat. The woman next to me is still on her phone. Her son is silent.

What or who is it that is so compelling on the other end of a cell phone that is worth making the person right beside us feel second best?

One of the salubrious pleasures of the quiet consulting room is the intense attention paid to one another as we struggle to navigate intimacy in the here and now.

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