My American Unhappiness

I am currently reading this book by Dean Bakopoulos.


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This morning, while reading, this paragraph struck me:

But, I’d argue, our sadness goes even deeper, punctuated by a crippling lack of the time, space, silence, energy, and/or capacity for critical self-reflection that life in the twenty-first century has brought upon us. In this culture, one discovers an alarmingly high rate of unhappiness. Some of this unhappiness is chronic; one finds some subjects to be wholly unhappy. For many, many others, most of my subjects, in fact, the breakneck pace of change in the past eight years, coupled with national leadership that is fumbling, frustrating, and frightening, has made them absolutely terrified of reflection. Pausing to think–i.e., unplugging the computer, the phones, the BlackBerry, the Facebook–is horrifying.”

I cut the paragraph short because it is the last sentence that caught my attention. My generation has grown up with technology. I have had a cell phone since the 7th grade. My interactions from then onward were based behind a cell phone screen or a computer screen. The words one can say on behind the screen–via text message, AIM, facebook, Instagram, MySpace, etc.–are much less inhibited than many of us are willing to say in person. My main concern, however, is that our generation, and even those older, as the technology trends have entered the lives of those who did not grow up with it as well, places a lot of attention on what is going on on a screen. Not only are we rarely paying attention to our surroundings–hence my current posts about putting away my headphones and noticing the sights, smells, and sounds that are occurring–but we are rarely paying attention to what’s going on inside of us. So focused we are on that screen–I just spent the entire day on this computer (ironic, that as I write this, I am utilizing technology), checking my cell phone a couple times an hour. Why are we so dependent on these items? Will the world change if we take the time to reflect on our days, our lives, our feelings, if we take a break from texting meaningless thoughts, instagramming photos of our food and shoes, and tweeting at each other? So reliant are we on these technological relationships that we have with others that we rarely focus on the relationship we have with ourselves. For our birthdays, we ask for the newest iPhone, an iPad, a new computer, a bigger tv. When we unwrap these items, we experience complete and utter glee. But, is it not the truth that this happiness is only short-lived? Might it be true that the items we think will make us happy are, in turn, making us unhappy? We put more value on the goings-on inside our smart phones than the goings-on inside our heads.

I say we not because it sounds better than “you, you, you,” but because I am guilty of this act as well. It has become a subconscious habit–to pull out my cell phone and scroll through my instagram, absentmindedly pushing down for the most recent updates–when I am physically in the room with other people. It’s not the New Year yet, but I am starting my early resolution–to put down the phone and pay more attention to myself and those whom with I spend my time.

[As my Yogi Tea¬†inspirational quote says today: “May your inner self be happy and secure.”]

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