Be present

When the year began, I said I had a single resolution: to be a better man. I came across an essay recently that made me want to reinforce my commitment — from the standpoint of being attentive.

Here is what I said: “(T)o me, being a better man means being kind, considerate, patient, attentive. I don’t expect I can be all of these things every day, but I can be mindful of my commitment and push myself to more of the man I want to be.”

Here is what I read: an essay by Linton Weeks for NPR, “We Are Just Not Here Anymore,” in which he notes that just about everywhere we are these days, we seem to want to be somewhere else simultaneously — if not physically, just mentally.

“At weddings, guests tweet real-time of the festivities to friends far away,” Weeks observes. “At sporting events, fans follow scores of games in other cities. In classrooms, students text with friends in other classes and parents out in the world. At funerals, mourners to pals in other places.”

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I can attest to the last example. Someone attending my mom’s funeral last fall was actually texting from a church pew during the service.

“These days, when people are alone, or feel a moment of boredom, they tend to reach for a device,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle wrote in a recent New York Times essay about our incessant need to document our lives. “In a movie theater, at a stop sign, at the checkout line at a supermarket and, yes, at a memorial service, reaching for a device becomes so natural that we start to forget that there is a reason, a good reason, to sit still with our thoughts.”

I’ve become more aware of my own tendency to be easily distracted — and I’m trying to be better about it. Each of the last two weeks, I’ve left my iPhone at home when I’ve gone bowling. At a recent awards dinner, I took my mobile device but I kept it in my pocket or face down on the table, refraining from taking a picture before, during or after the program.

Baby steps, I know. But at least I’m trying.

And I’m keeping these words from Weeks in mind: “If the people you are with or the event you are attending are not important enough to command your attention, then: Why. Are. You. There?”

Photograph: Zylenia/Flickr

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One thought on “Be present

  1. Exactly!! Austin and I have recently talked about this. To spend quality time with my beautiful children, I MUST give them all of me, leave the “smartphone” alone.

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