This routine ensures that the thoughts running through my head are typically the ones I placed there, not the ones some politician, media or social media actor shoved into my skull. And it means the algorithms can’t get me till at least 1.00pm. My days and my life, therefore, have not become an instrument of Big Tech’s toxic profit models, nor have I become a useful idiot who can be herded like some bone-headed bovine into online advertising spaces, to chew on their noxious cud. I therefore remain focused upon the things that are of most value to me, not those that are of value to the CEO of some trillion dollar tech company. I use the tech. But it will not use me. I will no longer let it.
The psyche weaves its way across life, perhaps not unlike the way a river makes its way from the mountains to the sea. And we never quite know when the river waters might rise, even as we make our way to the other side.
It’s this historical and civilizational impasse that led me to write my latest book, Power and Presence, and I am delighted to announce that it is now available on Kindle and in hard copy format on Amazon. The book’s subtitle hints at my preferred approach to the sensemaking crisis: Reclaiming Your Authentic Self in a Digitized World. I believe that it is in developing a more conscious relationship with ourselves (including the body and mind), the world and technology itself that we can establish a genuine foundation for moving forward. Simply regulating everything and punishing people isn’t going to work, at least not by itself. We have to look deeper than that, right into the soul of humanity, and ask ourselves, “What does it mean to be human in the digital age?” So, as much as anything, this is a meaning crisis, one that long precedes the digital age, and which has been developing for centuries.
Digital Wisdom as I define it comprises three parts. The first is“know thyself;” the second “know the humans;” and the third is “know the machines.” Individuals, organisations and societies can work at developing these three domains to cultivate Digital Wisdom personally and collectively
Research indicates that when we employ our peripheral vision, our sense of presence, awe and wonder increases. We relax, gain a deeper perspective of our place in time and space and our capacity for spatial memory improves. We become more positive about the future and the jigsaw of life begins to piece itself together. Thus, as our gaze habitually collapses outward while peripherally constricting, we lose touch with the human spirit.
As we spend more time online, it is very easy to lose track of what is important. It is very easy to lose our mindful, bird’s eye view of the world and our lives, and instead get caught up in earthbound cat fights. Often the squabbles and projections are with people we barely know, or do not know at all. I’d like to think that the Oath to Power and Presence, whatever version you make of it, can inspire you to keep your life on track, an dto affirm the higher values that we humans share as a collective.
Over time I have come to the conclusion that we need a framework and a simple descriptive language to identify and discuss this problem. This is why I came up with the following dichotomy: expansive mode online content versus constrictive mode online content. The most salient distinction is that expansion mode is generally constructive, creative and perhaps uplifting. It grants a sense of expansion of the spirit, as if our boundaries are shifting outward and upward. The constriction mode of expression, conversely, is depressive, fearful, angry. In its essence it is mean-spirited.
Those beginning a meditative or mindfulness practice often have a false expectation that they are about to become magically transformed into an awakened being, or perhaps even enter an exalted higher state of consciousness. Perhaps they might be thinking that they can tolerate a few weeks of mindless meditation, a few hours of dull, cross-legged sitting, or even staring at candles in the evening, if that means accessing the Bliss of Being. The petty inconveniences of modern life will all be forgotten once the divine light descends from the heavens, rendering us impervious to pesky feelings and inconvenient negative emotions like anger, sadness and fear… Alas, such people will be disappointed.
This strong tendency of the mind towards rumination is today a far bigger challenge than it was for mindfulness practitioners of yesteryear. The Buddha didn’t have to struggle with a daily dose of Twitterous twits constantly attempting to trigger him into emotional reaction. Lao Zi’s attention was most likely inward much of the time, aligned with the Dao, not battling opponents on Reddit. The ancient Chinese sage was quite happy to permit the dramas of king and courtiers to carry on as preferred. And Christ’s daily prayer sessions were not interrupted by smart phone alerts, notifying him to the urgent “breaking news” that he just had to read in order to stay informed and on top of his game.
This is my very recent presentation at the Society for Consciousness Studies, 2021. “Embodiment, Classical Intuition and The Future of the Metaverse.” My central argument is that it is vitally important that we retain a strong sense of embodiment & intuitive intelligence even as the 3D Digital Society evolves. To further diminish that awareness would represent the deepening & perpetuation of a major civilisational error that has engendered the crisis in sensemaking. It thus represents an existential crisis that is potentially catastrophic, literally &/or metaphorically. Establishing an Authentic Self via Embodied Presence is a vital component of all this.