Our main man Josh encourages you to bring your phone on tour. In the spirit of direct contradiction…
Modern connecta-people people who venture beyond road, town, and city are on a quest, consciously or otherwise, to cast their ‘smart’ phones into the fires of Mount Doom. But at the threshold of setting out, we struggle to let go, physically or psychologically. I see it every other day. The attachment, the perceived necessity, the anxiety which makes you keep your Precious phone close, and for which your Precious is the cause.
“Everything you bring will get wet.”
Hands to the rectangular pocket bulge.
“If you splash it, it’s dead, if you drop it, it’s gone. I suggest leaving it behind.”
Torn. Looking from the car to the phone to the ocean to me.
“You don’t need it.”
“I have a camera around my neck.”
“But… can I put it in your drybag?”
“Sure, but you can’t use it from inside the drybag and it may still get wet or damaged. We have these fancy, expensive phone bags for sale. But: you don’t need your phone.”
Fourty-seven minutes later. The drybag buzzes and bleeps against my legs as I paddle. Jettison, jettison, jettison!
As professional guides, we’ve known phone-free life. Not just as children yet to be spoiled, but as adult misfits – seasonal workers by choice – working summers in desert canyons and sub-alpine river reaches. It’s like waking up. No longer is life a series of distractions, interruptions, amusements, and throwaway communiques with little symbols to substitute for, and perpetuate, our atrophied literacy and wilted imagination. No longer is the conversation secondary to whatever pops up on the screen. No longer is every decision based on information pulled up for just this situation. No longer are meteorological predictions beamed by satellite replacing your senses and making everything safe and predictable. Can’t you see, there is more at stake than survival! No longer the maelstrom of unhappy voices telling you how to live. No longer the present moment passing by under your nose while you anticipate the ‘ding’ of some ever-illusive future reward. With the supercomputer removed from our pockets (or drowned from within a pocket, as mine was)… with that all-knowing-yet-insentient mental crutch and self-prescribed antidepressant removed, our evolutionary senses quickly re-sharpen. Just as the loss of an evolutionary sense forces the others to augment by way of compensation, so the loss of digital networks of all sugary flavours – cellular, global satellite positioning, the net, allows our natural senses, memory other compromised mental functions to return to their naturally heightened state.
Now, there is a lot of vague and abstract talk about ‘being present’, which is something we’re supposed to aspire to without any clear notion of what it actually means. It strikes me that we in the smartphone world assume we already live in the present, by virtue of physically existing in it. Or by virtue of trying, with some desperation and exhibitionism, to ‘live to the fullest’, which in our cultural void means grasping at pleasures and excesses in a futile attempt to stay the ever-receding moment. Or, simply to burn our time in as bright a ball of hedonism as possible. Either way, the present slips through our fingers, and our sense of living in the moment is false. As long as our devices are switched on, we are living in a state of perpetual anticipation. To exist wholly in the present requires that we are neither in a state of recollection about the “deep” past, nor anticipation of the “deep” future. In other words, to be emancipated – even for a moment – from temporal realms that have no direct physical bearing on the present. Real presence involves a subversion of the self, an emergence from the false being contrived by memory, trauma, ambition. The scope of our awareness must be narrowed to that bandwidth of space and time in which this moment perpetually unfolds into the next. Seems to me that in order to achieve this state we must also relinquish our intention to do so. It’s like Youth, it has to be unconscious, or it’s lost to performance. Tricky as it sounds, I think it’s possible for anyone to be truly present, and for most of us to recall a time when we really were. More than possible, it’s necessary for our psychological survival and thriving as our minds disintegrate ever thinner across the digital nebula. Presence is not something we need buy into. “Mindfulness”, as they call it now, not some exclusive realm whose gates need be kept by self-styled gurus, false prophets, and merchants of the wellness industry. Let us bypass all those temples. After all, it’s about letting go. All we need do is give form to the moment.
Use it for good.