Isn’t it fun to find a new favorite song? Mine is “Be Here Now.” Not only is the tune by Kenny White catchy, but also the words, by my friend Robin Macy, reflect something I strongly believe in.
I was in my car and slipped in the new Cherokee Maidens CD, “Ride Again.” I liked everything I heard – and then I heard them singing, “I look at your eyes, and to my surprise, I find I’m alone, you stare at your phone.”
After the part, “Turn off the phone/Take a deep breath/Open your eyes/I gotta confess/Sometimes we forget/To be here now,” I yelled “Amen, sister!”
Yes, cellphones have taken over too many lives, but there’s more to it than that. We’re not looking around, taking it all in. We’re not seeing and experiencing our surroundings. We’re not looking into a friend’s eyes to make sure her heart is feeling what her mouth is saying. Instead, we are seeing the tops of people’s heads as they type away.
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When I observed a dozen students walking across the bridge by North High, I noticed that each one had earbuds in and was holding a phone. I’m sure they were listening to music, but why weren’t they talking to the person walking beside them? It was 75 degrees, no wind, and the trees lining the river are spectacular this time of year. Where were they? Not in the now.
If you find this irritating because I sound preachy, quit reading now because it’s going to get worse.
You may have noted as a person gets older, some are inclined to enjoy looking back more than being in the present. I remember my mom and I were talking about times when I was in grade school, and she was always a room mother for one of us. We laughed how her three kids kept her plenty busy. She said, “At the time, I didn’t realize those were the good old days. But they were. And they were good.”
Isn’t it going to be hard to call these “the good old days” when we don’t remember anything but making sure we get a goofy looking selfie, or an Instagram photo taken? Aren’t we going to have memories of picture taking and text messages, instead of the way something really looked, sounded or felt?
In 1976, I was on a train going through Switzerland, and I remember seeing the Alps, with a valley, the bluest sky and a sweet cottage. It was such a unbelievably beautiful scene that I got tears in my eyes. How lucky I felt to be there to see that. I called my friend Cheryl’s attention to it, and she said, “We should take a picture.” I told her I’d rather take it all in and remember it. A photo could never be as pretty as the real thing, and I love having it in my memory bank. So many experiences are better in memory rather than online.
About four years ago, I gave the commencement speech at Wichita State. Since then, several students have told me they have reflected on what I said about each day being a gift, and that it’s up to you what you do with that gift.
Don’t you think our senses are another gift? Shouldn’t we use our sight to see things other than screens? Shouldn’t we be energized by inhaling crisp fall air? Shouldn’t we be hearing voices in person? Shouldn’t we be able to eat a meal without a phone in sight? We should eat concentrating on the taste of the food and enjoying the ritual of sharing a meal with others.
It’s amazingly difficult for some people to unplug. Dare a person who is constantly on the phone to go cold turkey and leave the phone at home in the underwear drawer. All right, any drawer will do. Better yet, turn the phone off and hide it. You’ll be amazed what is offered to get it back.
I asked Robin what inspired her to write “Be Here Now.” She said, “Over the course of the past few years, I’ve observed – with increasing consternation – the way folks are living virtually not necessarily completely.”
And so I loudly sing along, “Just make a vow, to be here now!”
Reach Bonnie Bing at firstname.lastname@example.org.