A word that causes panic within the digital world. We always want to ensure the connection is there, solid, almost tangible, so that whenever we need it, we can call on it.Searching for the name and directions to a restaurant, how many milliliters in a cup, how old is Scarlett Johansson?
We take this ability for granted, and when the connection is down, we are lost without it, scraping our hands down the backs of cabinets, scrabbling with our fingers to power cycle the modem, our connection to the digital world.
What about our connection to our physical bodies, to others, to our planet and our surroundings?
As society moves forwards, our experience with the tangible world around is compartmentalized, economized, minimized, optimized.. Our vacations are boxed into hedonistic “all-you-can-consume, all-services-included” 10 day excursions where we are shown what we are meant to see. The clean, sterile innards of a walled, gated, camera-ed resort.
Outside those walls, there is danger, squalor, choice, and … life.
I’m not suggesting you leave your resort in Jamaica to start consorting with the locals. Many areas of the world are unsafe. But this was merely an allegory to compare how our view of the world we live in is customized to create a sense of artificial happiness and relaxation.
I haven’t taken many vacations in my life, especially not on my own. As a child I was lucky to visit a number of countries with my parents, and I feel that I enjoyed them all.. as an adult, perhaps less so. My most recent trip abroad was to Spain a couple years ago. My inability to speak the language, coupled with my severe lack of money, made it really difficult to spend my time there following the conventional vacation rules I had grown up with. I spent my nights sleeping in a small room with no windows that led outside (mine led into the stairwell of the building) My days were spent searching for the cheapest sustenance, and simply walking around the various towns I had decided to visit. I was inherently uncomfortable in my own skin, as everything I was familiar with was stripped away, leaving me feeling vulnerable and insignificant.
It was exhilarating, and the beginning of my journey towards who I am today. I returned from that trip sick with a viral infection, broken, exhausted, and severely over stimulated. Was I disconnected? Absolutely, but I was only severed from every comfort I had ever known. I was alone with myself, and it terrified me.
Today I make it my utmost priority to be mindful. Do be present. To connect with myself, with my dreams, aspirations, fears.. Yet it still remains hard work. It feels like the progress I make is so difficult. Perhaps it’s because the world around me, or the slice of it that I live in, is formatted in a way that places value in absolutely everything that simply doesn’t matter. A materialistic consumption of something, anything, because we fear having nothing and be alone with ourselves.
We are cultivated to disconnect from ourselves, to plug in, and to then reconnect with each other virtually. Second Life is a game that emulates a world that is only limited by our imagination. Guess what. “First Life” is the same thing. Get out there, feel the air in your lungs, the weight of your body, the way your feet feel as they are pressed against the earth.