“Technology has become our environment as well as our ideology. We no longer use technology, we live it. ”
- Michiel Schwarz
In fact, we are addicted to technology. Chellis Glendinning writes, “Symptoms of the addictive process… include denial, dishonesty, control, thinking disorders, grandiosity, and disconnection from one’s feelings.” 1
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If we spice our food too much and persist too long our taste buds deaden. We will need more and more flavor enhancers to stimulate our senses. When technology delivers us instant gratification we become addicted to the adrenalin rush that big screen special effects or small screen gaming threats provide. And the natural world around us becomes bland by comparison.
Star Trek pioneered the concept of the holodeck, a virtual reality so real that it emulated reality flawlessly. We’ve already surpassed that technology and we don’t even need the holodeck. The artificial world that most people live in, created by technology, is populated voluntarily and for only one compelling reason: it’s become more fulfilling than real life.
Real life is fraught with the uncontrollable. It calls for real time responses and there is always risk. Mistakes are made and there isn’t always a happy ending. Not so in virtual reality. The movie ends and the lights come on, always. You can reboot the game and start over.
I introduced a term in my last book: The technology of now. This names an alternative to the machine world that engulfs us, a different possibility, and an invitation to sanity. Because that technological world Michiel Schwarz describes is insane. It is disconnected from our feelings because our feelings, our real feelings, are already connected to something else and only accessible in the now.
Our feelings can make us sane again. Reconnecting, consciously, with the world that lives at the tips of our feelings is the only remedy for the alienation that permeates the world of technology that enthralls us. Dual citizenship is not allowed; we must choose our primary place of residence. Either we live in superficiality, defined by screens and devices, or we flow in feeling, “on-line” in the same way that every other species always is.
This is the indigenous perspective. Ralph Metzner writes, “Recognizing and respecting worldviews and spiritual practices different from our own is perhaps the best antidote to the West’s fixation on the life-destroying dissociation between spirit and nature.” 2
His words inspire a generous viewpoint towards the beliefs of others and can begin to heal this rift between spirit and nature. Just as we have distanced ourselves from the beliefs of others, we have distanced ourselves from nature. One might wonder, which disassociation came first?
We can declare our residency in the real world. The real world encompasses everything, including technology. It’s naive to suggest today that we can survive without technology, given how we’ve developed human society. But is technology a tool or a master? As a tool, it can be employed to support a growing remembrance of unity in diversity. Remember what happened when we saw the first pictures of earth from space? Technology gave us those images, prompting an evolutionary expansion in awareness for millions of people.
It’s customary to go overboard with new toys and that’s the constant threat of new technology. But the benefits are there too, in the right hands. Regardless, this awakening that humanity is undergoing will not happen by avoiding technology because technology is not going away and neither is awakening. Nor can we hope to survive let alone awaken by getting lost in technology. We must use technology, not to produce more plastic wonders at the expense of the natural environment but — like that picture from space — to recall our residency in the universe.
We have never been separate; we just imagined we were. So we built a world to support that delusion. It’s easy to tear it down. It happens in any moment of presence, appreciating our roots and connection and the oneness we share will all species in the brotherhood of life wherever we are in the world and whatever the challenges.
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1. Ecopsychology, essay by Chellis Glendinning, page 46
2. Ecopsychology, essay by Ralph Metzner, page 67