I sat alone in Loring Park this morning.
I was posted up on a bench-- legs crossed and extended-- with glazed eyes staring out past the mossy green pond and toward the cathedral in the distance.
I’m trying to do more nothing recently, so I wasn’t trying to anything more than unplug and detox. I still couldn’t help but notice the pair on my right. The guy had a baggy navy cutoff, pocked skin, a black-and-gray mustache, and kept pacing around like he had some place to be. The woman had pale skin, scraggled black hair, and her face looked like she was stuck in her mind and couldn’t get out.
As the guy left and the woman sat down on the bench with big brown paper bag, my mind drifted. I began to cobble together their life and see where they were coming from.
What brought ‘em to Loring Park?
Where’s she stuck?
Where did he need to be?
The man came back a few minutes, and they sat on a picnic table fifteen fifteen feet away. This time, they had two OJs. As she pulled out sandwiches from the big brown paper bag, it dawned on me:
When was the last time I was that present to another person?
Our phone bills, our internet monthly, our blue light addiction… we pay lots to control where we put our attention. We skip over the boring parts. We ruthlessly customize our world to see what we want to see.
When it comes to choosing what-- and ultimately who-- is worth our attention, I wonder if the price is higher than anything our checkbooks can fork out.
Let me be crass. This is a blog, right? I’ve heard stories about people who watch so much porn they can’t get off to their significant other. Their brains have been so fundamentally rewired that they can’t be sexually stimulated by anything except a fabricated world of silicon, sixth takes, and pseudo-sexuality.
Don’t we do something similar with our precious blue light?
Clickbait is addictive, I’ll admit it. I’m just another guy with six browsers up. One of them is looking up whether or not Donald Trump could actually win. Another is Key & Peele. Then your classic Twins baseball stuff occupies the next two or three. And then, of course, what kind of American would I be if I didn’t regularly watch videos of Army men and women coming back to greet their dog?
I’m not a tech shamer. At least, I hope not to be one.
But just like the person sexually numb to the one they love by fake plots and smashing bodies, I wonder I’m becoming emotionally numb to people I’m with, except by blue lights and Instagram likes. Sometimes, I feel like I can’t give you my undivided attention for more than forty-five seconds before blue light whispers in my ear.
I’m ankle deep in a dozen worlds. Which is honestly pretty shitty, because I have yet to meet another human being who isn’t an Olympic swimming pool or deeper.
Dear human, what’s it that reveals your glory?
I mean, beyond the whole “you’re a snowflake” thing. Is it your highlight reel of courage? A 3 ½ minute smattering of your funniest moments? And if I glance you over-- give you just enough attention to figure out what’s worth my time-- will I have glanced long enough to hold the infinite weight of your very existence?
Love is doctrine; undivided attention is practice. And I don’t have undivided attention to give until I contend for self-awareness about the voices that crowd my life and the volume I let them have.