Streets are crowded as players emerge from indoors as if for the first time, attached to a device that leads them mindlessly through city streets, blissfully unaware of the world around them.
On already dangerous roads, people in my neighborhood are riding their bikes with one hand on their phone and their mind in virtual reality — accidents waiting to happen. A friend’s wedding was disrupted by strangers trying to get into the church. I just learned that my client’s office on the beach has been labeled as a gym on a virtual map and I am a bit nervous about going in to work this week.
This is the new entertainment.
We love escape and we are constantly coming up with clever ways to keep ourselves distracted from our crazy world. Addicts are quick to point out the game’s positive effects. It turns out that Hongkongers do know how to find their way outside in summer. People here can actually talk to each other.
The new game promises rewards for connection, fresh air, exercise and good deeds. In other words, we have come to rely on a program for ordinary activities.
I hear the defending arguments for a well-deserved and long-overdue escape as the alternative to being stuck behind a TV. I read the comments touting benefits that include walking for miles, seeing our neighborhoods for the first time and rescuing stray animals. Some pr company somewhere is doing an excellent job. People are calling it a blessing for the disabled and even comparing it to healthy activities like sports and meditation.
One might question a daily existence that requires an app to motivate us to perform everyday activities, but we have excused ourselves from the ordinary to the point where we find our comfort in all things extreme — everything from style to travel to food, fitness and action — it must be amazing and awesome and fantastic or we are simply not interested.
As I watch the world numbing down around me, I can relate to this heightened need for escape from our fears.
In our desire to become informed, we are bombarded with news stories running in an endless loop aiming to scare the shit out of us so we will soothe ourselves with retail therapy and purchase those unessential products paying for the airtime, ending up in landfills or oceans. I share the social desire to connect that draws me to a screen while knowing it shoots up my body with hits of dopamine faster than my brain can process the information being presented … next … next … like … share … like … like … next.
I am okay with not being on the side of popular in this discussion because I know what’s like to put off the right choice for decades and then pay a much higher price to get back on track.
We have been here before. Aztecs, Khmer, Minoans, Mayans and Easter Island … these lost civilizations become less of a mystery when we bear witness to the zombie-like behavior of millions around the world in search of an illusion of happiness at any cost.
In a time where no one has time for anything, everyone has time for this.
Choices are pretty simple — they are either good for me or they’re not good for me. Trust me when I say I have an abundance of experience with choices that are not good for me. They are the ones that are generally convenient, easy and provide the quickest relief from whatever discomfort I am feeling in the moment. It doesn’t take long before I realize I have made too many bad choices at a stretch and the time has come to make better ones.
Choices feed choices so I like to start early. When I wake in the morning, before I switch anything on, I like to switch off completely and spend some time awake in silence. In these moments of stillness, I remember who I am and what is important to me. This prepares me to bring the truth of myself to each day, every choice and every action, knowing I will be challenged and seduced and threatened with fear tactics aimed to bring me back in line with a culture of consumption and conformity.
I am reminded of David Suzuki as he describes humans as a new kind of force on the planet.
And we get to choose what kind of force we will be. As a big fan of options, here are a few that popped into mind. Connect with strangers and spend time outdoors at a #popupcleanup. Win real-world feel-good points by volunteering to love companion animals who were dumped by their inhumane humans. Escape the routine with a local time-out that is out of the mall and out of ordinary.
Need an app to get out? Download GlobalAlert and head out in search of marine pollution hot spots on our shorelines. Ditch your costly plastic water and explore Hong Kong in search of Free Water with your refillable bottle. For an off-grid option, write this phone number your hand — 2838 3111 (EPD Hotline) and go out on an excursion to spot illegal fly-tipping black spots in real world — they are easy to find when we are looking for them, just like the virtual spots slowing everyone down at the moment.
Our energy and our time are ours to spend.
We can narrow our choices by contributing all of our movements to the big data machine or we can expand our awareness with a reality check and see where we can be the change we want to be.
What is your state of play?
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natural life in the fast lane
Everything is connected.
Listen to your own heartbeat.
“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” Plutarch
Photo by Kinzie