Mrs. Peel and I are sitting side by side, looking out the window. The morning chatter-clatter of starlings on the postage-stamp lawn in front of my apartment has already abated, leaving us to gaze at metal and bricks, the traffic passing by, the boxy building across the street. And at people on the sidewalk with and without strollers (about half and half), and with and without earbuds and iPhones (almost all busily with).
Ever the Capricorn, I recently took the stubbornly contrary action of trading in my somewhat-smart phone for a single-minded dumber one that only knows how to do one thing: phone calls. I did this because I need to hear what the person on the other end of the call is saying more than I need to check my emails all day, or send and receive messages. I had a feeling that the more "gifted" phone I had been using to relieve my stress level was actually adding to it.
A month into this experiment, I can report that I was right. Checking emails pulled my attention repeatedly away from the present place and time. The way that little "ding!" hooked me was disruptive of both conversation and quiet, because I do not multi-task very well. I think I am not alone in this. In fact, I don't know anyone my own age – i.e. grew up without computers and adopted them later – who truly can multi-task. Rather, we get several balls going in the air, and think we're doing great, but we can drop one or two without noticing. Then we fume over yet another email exchange about all the same things, or a double-booking, or an argument about what was actually said and agreed to.
The iPhone is a glorious invention, and I'm not scorning the idea of ever having one. But right now I need all the quiet I can get. I live in a noisy place, where inner quiet is the only available quiet, and for that, for now, for me, the dumb phone is the smart way to go. If ever I move back to the wilderness, you can bet I will rethink. But in the meantime, I am trying to train myself to take and make my calls, when at home, in the corner of my apartment that is farthest away from where my laptop sits, so I am not browsing the internet while saying "uh-huh, yes, I know" to I don't-know-what because I am browsing the internet. It was easier to train my cat to sit on command, because Mrs. Peel has the feline's gift of focus. She is distracted only by string. But for me, anything and everything can be string. That's my personal string theory, and because of that, because I am a 20th Century human in the 21st century, I must decide, every day, when to boldly go, and, with perhaps more urgency, when to refrain from going. Music is in the rests as much as in the notes.