They’ve been trying to get your attention, waving a hand in your face for a while now. It might be a small hand, trying to ask you a big question as you drive or walk down a long path. “Why is the grass green, daddy? What makes the sky blue?” When Avery asked me questions like this when he was a small boy, I took it seriously and thought hard about it and promised that when we got home we would look up the answer on the Internet. I always forgot to look it up, but I always meant it when I said I would.
Are you anchored in the moment? Or are you mailing it in? Time is all we have, the only currency we spend as humans. But are you present in the present, living in the past or dreaming of the future? We hardly know you anymore. We used to know you. Who are you? We forget, but we want to remember. Remind us. Be here now.
My wife starting looking into smart devices about a decade ago, and I have been trying to get her full and undivided attention ever since. These devices were always smarter than me, I suppose. Even the early fairly dumb smart ones. She got an I-pod. Then an I-pad. Then an I-Phone. I cannot compete with these devices for her attention. It’s probably because I don’t have enough killer apps.
My 15-year-old son has slipped inside his devices. Disappeared inside an I-phone with headphones. What is going on inside his head? I have no idea. I used to know, but I have no clue what world he’s living in now. If there’s a spare moment, he fills it immediately with manga or a viral video or an online movie review.
We banned Avery from the Internet some time ago for some bad grades, but we gave him and ourselves an out. If he is exercising, he can use his devices. So, he is quick to retreat to the gym in our apartment building. You can spot him on the elliptical machine moving every body part as he watches a video. See him on an exercise bike holding his I-phone in his hands and giggling madly. Watch him walking on a treadmill while a movie plays before him. He is not going at any great speed while he tunes into the internet, but we are happy for movement, even if it is barely detectable.
It’s infectious. Anyone can become untethered from reality. I had ignored Facebook as a fad until a few months ago. I missed my friends back in the South. I wanted to be connected to them. I started writing a blog and checking everyone’s status. Liking this and that. Trying to be suddenly relevant in other people’s lives from a great distance as I had almost never been when I saw them every day.
It takes a lot of time and commitment to matter to people you never see on a regular basis. You find yourself reflexively checking status updates every few minutes. Responding to the most banal posts. You fight the impulse to post about the weather. I posted in my status once about the weather and quickly deleted it. I have to draw a line somewhere.
So, we are all slipping away into the ether. Going, going and gone. The only way to keep from disappearing is to run away from it all. Almost no one is here now in New York City where we live. They are taking a quick wary nap on the subway or listening to music through wires as they walk. I love living here. But still. Everyone is checked out and tuned out and long gone.
We are on vacation in Key West at this moment. (I know I write everything in present tense for some reason, but, no, this time I mean it.) We are playing together and having fun. All three of us here in one space at one time. I know it’s a dream. It won’t last. We’ll all tune back into the Internet soon. There is always something compelling playing there.
Just for this time. Just in this moment. We are here. Now. Tuned into each other. We are what’s playing. I like us. We don’t have killer apps. But there’s something about us that is infectious and fun. I experience a phantom vibration in my pocket from my I-phone. I am going to ignore it. Then I remember I left my I-phone in the hotel room. Hmm.
Avery and I play Foosball against a pair of brothers roughly his age. When we win, I do a short victory dance. The moment is magic. Laughter abounds. We are here.
Robyn and I lie together in a hammock kissing. It’s great. I feel a presence at the end of the dock looming over us. It’s Avery. “I sensed a disturbance in the force,” I tell him. But no. For once, the universe is completely in balance, all forces in alignment.
We are here now.
(Note: I’ve not read the book “Be Here Now.” If anyone has read the book and has thoughts about it or how I’m way off base about what the evocative phrase really means or more thoughts about what it can mean, please tell me.)