‘What is this life if, full of care / We have no time to stand and stare’

Having been lucky enough to be on my travels in far-off climes recently, the idea of connection has had me thinking. Attachment and relationships are all about connection and it seems that we are living in a cyber world that is increasingly encouraging us to do this remotely. Take the ubiquitous mobile phones which may be seen being used for little talking, but much scrolling, texting, emailing, TV watching… I could go on. There is increased questioning about the effect this has on the interpersonal skills of individuals and communities, but it has recently struck me with some force that our addiction to social media is preventing other kinds of connections too.

Take the man who bothered to clamber up a very steep, long, rocky jungle path to reach the top of a waterfall and a spectacular view. He climbed alone in sweltering 35°C heat. Four other people (myself included) were at the top. He ignored everyone, walked to the edge of the waterfall, took a photo with his phone, turned 180°, took another photo and began his climb back down. He wasn’t up there for more than a minute. I don’t think at any point he looked at another human being or stopped to let his eyes consider the breathtaking display that nature had provided. I am sure, however, that the small photo on his phone will be shown as proof of him bearing witness to that beauty.

But I don’t think this man witnessed anything of the sort. He undertook a purposeful, tiring journey and, at the end game, missed the whole point of it. There was no connection with the environment around him. He was in a bubble of futuristic possibility which would enable him to enjoy his phone’s version of a beautiful view at some other point in time rather than living in the moment and seeing what was in front of him. Truly, a missed opportunity.

When I have the opportunity to talk to audiences about attachment and connections between people, I often use the phrase, ‘listen with your eyes’. I would argue that any connection takes a commitment to using our senses, not through a media device or electronic gadget, but in the old-fashioned, freestyle manner that involves a willingness to be aware of how our bodies are responding to an environment and, potentially, others within it. But in order to connect with others effectively, we first need to be able to connect with ourselves. It seems to me that for all the magic that media can provide, finding the time to sit and enjoy a moment wholeheartedly as an individual, unsullied by other distractions, is a gift that we would all benefit from indulging in. So I return home with a few photos, it’s true, but with also a promise to find and enjoy those unsullied, gadget-free moments much more often.