Sunday, March 9, 2014

Finding Balance Between The Digital and Natural Worlds

Lately, I've caught myself feeling an urgency to keep up with the myriad of new technologies, social networks, programming languages and website innovations that continually flood the digital market-o-sphere. 

I've been enamored with the digital world for 30 years. In many ways, it has served me well. The countless hours of unbridled productivity have far outweighed the hair-rending frustration of technical glitches.

Today, however, I am acutely aware of how often digital devices pull me further away from my natural patterns and rhythms. Computer gizmos have set a pace that keep me moving faster than I want to. It's like cleaning house while listening to the William Tell Overture. Before you know it, you find yourself out of breath, trying to beat the kitchen counter scrubbing world record. Music and computers are both alluring and both can easily alter your internal tempo without your even noticing.

That increased tempo was exhilarating when I was younger and brimming with energy. Fast forward a few decades, though, and I find myself scrambling to catch up with the constant and prolific introduction of the newest technology. Granted, some of that technology has gotten less complex in the last 10 years. It's just that there's so much of it, and it changes the instant we get accustomed to the last new innovation.

In the 1990s, I read that in the span of a modern career, we have to relearn 8 times more new information and techniques than our parents did. I expect that number has expanded even further in recent years. 

The shelf life of a newly-launched website is constantly shrinking. Better interfaces emerge, and hackers find new workarounds to security safeguards. When I tell my clients they need critical upgrades less than a year after their site has launched, they don't always realize that I am being pro-active to keep pace with innovations (and one step ahead of the latest security breaches). Some think I'm trying to foist premature, unnecessary upgrades upon them. I understand their doubts because I, too, often think: "It's all completely changed again? So soon??" It's hard not to be dubious when change comes at such a breakneck pace. 

It's hard to stay resilient when you're being asked to roll with relentless change. How much can we expect the human mind and body to keep up with digital paradigms that last but a fleeting moment? How long can we withstand a pace that differs so much from the organic cycles of the human body? How long should we even attempt to?

Personally, I need to strike a balance between the digital and the physical: to harvest the benefits of computing while also honoring my natural physical and emotional patterns. I want to live at a tempo that doesn't grind me down to the nub, I want to disregard the digital message that says, "Human, you're not accurate enough or quick enough. So either become superhuman or step aside." I want to reject that message in favor of a more authentic, human, organic life experience. I want digital devices to adapt to my speed, not the other way around.

I'm guessing that there are lots of people just like me, trying in vain to keep up with the digital parade, yet yearning for a more soul-nourishing lifestyle, a more relaxed pace. 

I am 55, and have a wife and 12 year old daughter. I can't work 70-80 hours a week any more, nor do I want to. But I still want to contribute to the world prolifically, authentically, humanly and honestly. I want to strike a balance of productivity and physical harmony. I want to use digital tools, not have the tools use me.

How do I find that balance? What can I do today to start making a change? 

It's the first warm Sunday of the season, so the solution today is a no-brainer: I will step away from the digital box, and go outside. Using all 5 senses when stepping away from the computer will help me better appreciate the moment.

Outside, I can see the white brightness of the March sun, and the way the bare tree branches wave in the wind, as if to beckon Spring to come closer.

I can hear the whisper of the breeze and the staccato knock of the woodpecker against Doug's maple tree.

I can smell that sort of fecund, fertile smell that the earth burps up in these in-between seasons, mixing with the faint smell of the few, vanguard quince and daffodil blooms.

I can feel the hair on my arms jostle in the wind, feel the slight sting of sunlight on my skin, feel my pores open up as my body's radiator remembers how to adapt to warm air.

I can touch the ground, still moist, still holding in Winter's cold beneath its layer of bedraggled grass, feel the tufts of grape hyacinth leaves poking through the firm layer of loam. 

Today's solution was easy. How to I get closer to that balance tomorrow? (Luckily, I've changed my mind about blogging. I used to think that I could only blog if I had the answers. I now believe that to run a successful blog, I simply need to keep asking the right questions. And finding out where those questions lead me.)

So what do you think? What is your relationship with nature? With the digital world? Is it in balance? If so, how do you keep it that way. If it's not in balance, what do you do to try and get back to a manageable equilibrium?


  1. How about some self care in the digital age?

    1. I love the bullet point suggestions in the section "What is Self-Care in the Digital Age?"

  2. Wonderful post David and something we can all relate to!


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