We began one of the final chapters in my recent book, Awakening from the American Dream, with this quote from business guru Seth Godin: “How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?”
Godin gets specific in his book, Weird, when he writes, “The ever more networked nature of our world means that we have huge assets at our disposal – laser cutters, roadways, chemical compounds, and innovative ways of processing ideas – all standing by, waiting for us to do something new.”
I recently spoke in Silicon Valley to executives from Linkedin. They were immensely relieved to not hear me tell them to unplug! That’s the usual “spiritual” message techies get, that they are too plugged in and need to give themselves “mindfulness breaks.” Ridiculous.
Consciousness didn’t make a mistake when it came up with technology! This must be blatantly obvious to anyone who embraces the notion of oneness. It isn’t “oneness except for technology.” Technology is as spiritual as everything else and Godin is championing the value of modern innovations that allow us to “be remarkable” and to “do something new.”
What might that look like for us? For starters, we would relinquish the unholy alliance we may have forged between inordinate respect for ancient wisdom plus disdain for 21st century inventions. There is such a thing as modern wisdom! In fact, wisdom is cumulative. Certainly, pearls from the past have been neglected and need to be recalled, but wise sages of days gone by never meant their words to be final. They honored their ancestors while they pioneered new vistas of understanding… can’t we do the same? And might we stretch our understanding to note that wisdom is taking many unique forms in our technological rich world?
I’m describing what it means to be an awakened learner. Such an individual lives in a highly alert state 24/7, noticing and assimilating and growing and employing available tools, dismissing no opportunities. By contrast, the “expert” knows that he already knows it all. He doesn’t discover, he berates, dispensing his meager portion of dinosaur knowledge – with or without invitation - rather than expanding and renewing it.
The awakened learner has a child-like mind. Remember what that was like, before the culture shapers tried to program the wonder out of us? We were fascinated by everything. Unwrapping a present was an exploration of delight and value that began with the ribbon and paper, the box, tissue, etc. We weren’t just waiting for the gift inside. It was all interesting; until the suffocating influence of enculturation succeeded in devaluing everything but the prize.
We wrote later on in our Awakened Leader chapter: “The awakened learner is an explorer, pushing off from the shore of the known and sailing into the unknown, moment by moment. Like explorers of old, the awakened learner experiences the full range of emotions invariably associated with exploring: sorrow for leaving the familiar, fear of what lies ahead, eager anticipation to find out, and the thrill of living on the edge of discovery.”
This sounds exciting! And, sadly, few people live this way, hemmed in as they believe themselves to be by limitations on every side. What if those limitations were actually unlocked doors poised to open? What if all that we believed was oppressing us could liberate us? I’m speaking about a new appreciation for the modern world. Really? Haven’t we created a nightmare so potentially deadly that the entire human race may not survive? Hasn’t technology been one of the main culprits?
There’s no doubt that technology run amok has been catastrophic, producing our current world crises. This gives us several options: We could blame/spurn/outlaw technology (good luck with that). Or, we could use it in new, positive, creative ways. Using it differently requires someone with the understanding to do so, which brings us right back to the awakened learner. And, to ourselves. All of us are using technology of some kind every day. What if we increased our mindfulness around that? Instead of escaping, how about exploring? Consciousness created all of this for good reasons; it’s up to us to find out what they are. That is our 21st century challenge.
Later in his slim volume Godin writes:“A computer should cost a billion dollars. Instead, you can buy one for $200. The reason? The insights and investments and innovations of a decade or two ago have already been paid for. We get the benefit of the innovations that came before, but we don’t have to pay for them.”
Well, actually we do. Absent from this author’s commentary when he champions that $200 price tag are the almost incalculable hidden environmental costs. Who pays for all that it took in terms of resource raping and pillaging to produce that computer? We are leaving a colossal debt – measured in pollution and species extinctions, etc. - for our children, our grandchildren, and our great grandchildren. Of course, some would argue that our species won’t make it that far.
But technology is not the devil. We can’t blame tools for what the toolmakers do with them. Here’s the pertinent question: what will we do with them? If we can become awakened learners, risen from our stupor of judgment and blame, we can learn how to harness the power of technology in new, positive, creative ways. With this attitude, it’s clear that we live in a wonderland of transformational opportunities unknown to generations before us. Challenges? Yes. But, opportunities? In every moment. The fruits of technology are richly provided, not to use destructively, not to become addicted to or demonize/avoid but for good, for the purposes consciousness created them for. To repeat part of my first Godin quote, they are “all standing by, waiting for us to do something new.”
What the world needs now is not more meditators escaping the tech heavy world; we need modern mystics adept at utilizing 21st century tools for 21st century awakening.
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