A Simple Gesture in a Technology-Heavy World

How many high tech gadgets do you have? How many do you feel you need? Is your TIVO connected to your computer? Do you access your TIVO through your IPAD? Do you access CNN live on your IPOD-even while abroad? How connected do you have to be? Recently on a short flight to Atlanta, my seatmate was jittery throughout the flight because we had no WIFI access. We were supposed to. That was why I specifically chose that flight but WIFI wasn’t working. He kept telling me that he was addicted to technology and had to be online. He felt disconnected and consequently he was feeling great fear of flying. I offered him my IPAD that was full of videos and applications to see if it would soothe him over. I still had my laptop and IPOD to entertain me. Yes, that is how technology heavy we can be.

We use technology to get our morning coffee started before we even get up. We now use technology to attend classes (long distance learning).  Twenty years ago you would have to read a book to find out information on a topic. Now, you turn to Wikipedia on the internet. If you do read a book, it is becoming more and more likely that you are doing so on an electronic tablet of some sorts. Reading rainbow, a PBS show hosted by LeVar Burton for 26 years, is now an ipad app.  Apparently, television’s future, according to online streaming giant Netflix, is in apps. Sesame street did a riff on apps a few years ago airing a segment (called there’s an app for that) about the new “ipogo” that replaces the good old pogostick. The simplicity, silliness, and joy usually found in jumping on a stick was replaced  with a stick that did everything for one from making phone calls to making milkshakes.  But what about just jumping? Will kids in the future not even use their hyperactivity and creativity to jump? Look at how we use technology to communicate with each other in less personal ways. When is the last time you used your cell phone to actually talk to someone –hold an actual conversation? Do you rather text someone than talk to them? We do use technology to bring our voice to a larger audience (i.e. Twitter) and thus our voice, our opinions are amplified. While it is great to have an audience for which to express ourselves do we come out with an inflated sense of self that will only lead to feelings of disappointment and eventual depression when our amplified voice is just a blip amongst many other amplified voices? Whose voice gets to be louder?   Our photos are now doctored, widely approvingly so, continuously to the point that we do not know (and perhaps do not care to know) what is a real image.

All this to ask, must everything be technology heavy? We were told while growing up to appreciate the simple things in life. But where have all the simple things gone?

A few weeks back, Yoko Ono tweeted a photo of John Lennon’s glasses. Specifically, they were John Lennon’s bloodied glasses from when he was shot and killed. She tweeted the photo to mark what would have been her 44th wedding anniversary and to note the impact of gun violence  in this country. I don’t listen to her music, find her a bit odd and i am not a huge beatles fan (prefer Rolling Stones in that age-old battle) but the simplicity of that gesture got to me. A pair of glasses. Blood stained glasses could represent so much.

I too hold onto a pair of old glasses- those of my mother. The glasses are actually one of the few things I have left of hers, along with an old identification card (like me, she too was a new yorker and never drove and thus had no drivers license) and a few nightgowns. Yoko noted that the death of a loved one is a hallowing experience. Looking and holding a pair of glasses of a loved one that has since passed is the ultimate in simple remembrance. This is the literal lens through which she viewed the world. Her life experience and views passed onto me. I now am the keeper of her lens onto the world. Nothing more powerful. Nothing more simple. When she passed away, i was taken by surprise and as many others upset with myself, wishing I we had done more for her in life. I felt like a failure. But a beautiful simple and written letter from a friend set me back on course. It was just one page and in it he noted that he knew my mother must have been proud and had a full heart from having such a great daughter. Such a simple gesture set me back on track.

When my sister first called me to let me know my mother had had a heart attack and stroke, i was on a business trip driving back to the Chicago airport. I was with two colleagues who were overhearing my end of the conversation.  Definitely a sad, awkward series of minutes. I was in my head and just overwhelmed. How would i reach my mom in the middle of a major storm that had snarled airline traffic throughout the US.   I was in a bit of a fog. Then I felt my colleagues hand on my shoulder and back. She didn’t say anything.  She didn’t have to. It was all there in that simple gesture. No technology-mediated conversation or messaging.  Just a human touch. A simple gesture.

This past year a fellow commuter who was having a panic attack, asked if i could just talk to him for the remainder of the train ride. Unlike my fellow flight seat mate who was in desperate need of technology, this train passenger wanted a human voice with a human smile and human nod. A simple bit of humanity. A simple gesture to help someone through a rough patch.

There is no stopping the technology wave unless a revolution type of scenario were to occur. And we necessarily do not want to go back. Its no time to be a Luddite. But a simple human gesture never goes out of style.

PS. here is the link to the ipogo video:

3 replies »

  1. Beautiful. Though technology can make communication easier, it can cloud our messages. That simple touch spoke volumes that could never be relayed via iPhone or iPad or any fancy device. Thanks for the story!


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