Lessons from the Innocence of Youth

Screen addiction is real.

Its easy to think oneself immune to many of the ills plaguing our times by comparing ourselves to those in a worse situation than ours, but facing the truth of our own reality is inevitable if we are to engage in any sincere self reflection.

Despite conscious efforts to reduce the amount of time spent looking at any type of screen, I occasionally find myself in periods where my time spent using either my phone or iPad remains consistently high. Frustrated, I see the statistics in front of me daily and wonder where that time ever went.

Why is this the case?

Perhaps it is born out of a desire to know everything happening in many different spheres, to keep up with your family, friends and even world news in real time. To miss a seemingly significant moment would render us terrifyingly out-of-the-loop and ‘behind’ everyone else.

And in our fast-paced world, who can afford to be behind?

Maybe it is this ‘fear of missing out’ that drives us to consistently check our devices for any update from the ‘outside’ world we have ironically redefined to be existing within the confines of our technological devices.

And yet, when I spend any time putting my baby Son to sleep at night, as I look at his innocent face and watch him glance around the dark room and eventually become singularly captivated by the even the simplest of room d├ęcor, I see a mirror image of my own attention span and wonder why my baseline has drifted so far. To be so pure that even blank white walls and smoke alarms can provide avenue for endless wonder and curious fixation only serves to contrast the divide between my state and his.

What does my son know that I don’t? Or perhaps more accurately, what does he have that I have lost?

Bertrand Russell wrote:

“Whatever we may wish to think, we are creatures of Earth; our life is part of the life of the Earth, and we draw our nourishment from it just as the plants and animals do. The rhythm of Earth life is slow; autumn and winter are as essential to it as spring and summer, the rest is as essential as motion. To the child, even more than to the man, it is necessary to preserve some contact with the ebb and flow of terrestrial life. The human body has been adapted through the ages to this rhythm…” [1]

As Russell so eloquently stated, we are as much creatures of the Earth as animals and plants are. We may feel an instinctual separation from them due to our advanced levels of sentience and free will, but we exist equally with them as inhabitants of the same Earth and subject to its same processes.

As we know from simple observation, almost everything in nature works on extended time periods. Crops take months/years to produce harvest, trees can many many years to grow, volcanos may lay dormant for centuries, canyons are eroded by the humble flow of water over millennia. It is as though the lesson to be learnt from our experience with nature is simply this:

Things take time.

It is not for us to rush these processes, but to humble ourselves and respect their pacing.

The rhythm of the earth is to be slow and meaningful, but at other times to be fast and ferocious. Unfortunately we seem to have lost our appreciation of the slow and meaningful understanding of life, and have taken the explosive speed of an erupting volcano or the ferociousness of a raging river as the default standard instead.

And so, it is in these precious moments of watching my innocent Son stare around the dark room and slowly fall asleep I am reminded of the simple origins of Man and how little is really needed to suffice us.

We need not be slaves to the desire to be in-the-loop at all times. Perhaps our daily lives would be better without half the useless knowledge and impotent ‘facts’ we know now in our ever-broadening desire for the conquest of data.

We are indeed creatures of this planet, and it is incumbent upon us to take heed of the speed of nature, the wisdom behind great things taking time and in results not being seen until much later. Much of this sentiment runs counter to the desire of our technological gadgets to have their screams, shakes and shouts attended to with the utmost urgency – ironically a sentiment also insisted upon by real children.

In spending these intimate moments with my Son, I am able to (even if momentarily) recalibrate my priorities and reset my urge to be digitally present in real time.

Without intending it, our children can teach us a thing or two.


References

[1] – The Conquest of Happiness, Bertrand Russell

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