"Mankind will suffer badly from the disease of boredom, a disease spreading more widely each year and growing in intensity. This will have serious mental, emotional and sociological consequences, and I dare say that psychiatry will be far and away the most important medical specialty in 2014. The lucky few who can be involved in creative work of any sort will be the true elite of mankind, for they alone will do more than serve a machine." - Isaac Asimov, excerpted from his 1964 New York Times essay "Visit to the World's Fair of 2014"
I know all of you who are artists and performers just cheered. I did when I read this excerpt too. Who doesn't want to be one of the "lucky few" or "the true elite of mankind?"
On Christmas Eve, I was discussing this phenomenon of an increasingly unwell society at dinner with a friend's 84-year old uncle. Let's call him Sal. Sal is sharp and funny and I liked him instantly. We talked politics, literature, and film. He told me about restaurants opening up in my trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. What a hip gentleman! Then he told me about his lifelong weight-lifting regimen and the 18-holes of golf he routinely plays. In fact, he recently had a pacemaker installed because he felt he was slowing down to only 11 holes and that was not going to do it. Talk about wanting to live life to the fullest!
We steered into a conversation about the amount of time people spend online and he expressed his frustrations. Let me be clear. Sal also has his own Facebook account and uses it to keep in contact with friends and family. He is no luddite with technology so I took him seriously. We are both of the opinion that while technology brings us innovation opportunities and connectivity benefits we should tap into, it also invites us to become swallowed up by it. He kept pointing at his niece and saying, "Why is she always on Facebook so much? She is talented and outgoing and a great writer so why is she wasting her time on that thing?"
I am sure each of you has had an experience when you go in to check an email and then several hours pass you by. This practice cannot be good for our health, mental or physical, as we sit and stare at a glowing box. There is also something about that time and space going away without noticing that strikes me as counterproductive to creating a mindful society. No wonder we feel detached, lonely, or even depressed. This brings me to another point.
We are humans. We need to see and interact with other humans to remind us of who we are and why we are here.
One of the reasons I love my work so much is that it involves active communication with people, IN PERSON. I am constantly grateful that I have to show up to a space in the flesh to teach and work with my students or to dance and choreograph. I hope that never changes. The performing arts, martial arts, yoga, and meditation are some remaining activities that require a commitment of body and mind. Even some of these crafts are being threatened by online versions so people don't have to leave home to participate. I would argue to be a true practitioner of the arts or mind/body practices, you must be present. Additionally, you cannot get bored when you are interacting with time, space, and motion as it interacts with you. Vitality and health comes along with interactive living.
Perhaps Asimov's quote will inspire you to logoff right now and go do something active or meet up with a fellow human. If you are a creative person by profession, commit to your work and craft with newly inspired support that there is wisdom behind your physical presence being part of your process. Is there an email you are sending to a friend that could be replaced by calling them up and meeting for tea instead?
Let me return to Sal in closing this Monday post. As we lamented the world of online life overwhelming actual living, I asked him at one point if he had ever tried Wii golf and weight lifting games. Sal scoffed, "Not the same thing. You know what I love the most about lifting weights? Figuring out how to use the breath." He is truly one of the "lucky few."
- TaraMarie Perri