When was the last time you stared hard at nothing? I mean really and truly focused your eyes on precisely zilch, tuned out the clamor and din of your immediate vicinity, followed your unpredictable mind down an unproductive path and just … fully … spaced?
I don’t remember the last time I did that. And I miss it.
My mind has no opportunity to wander anymore; when I find myself teetering on the scraggly edge of boredom — at the gas pump, in the checkout line, in the doctor’s waiting room, even (yes) at especially long stoplights — I gather up every shred of my frazzled attention and heave it at my iPhone screen to see if I can’t lose myself in a trivial text exchange, tumbling-puppy video, or chapter 37 of the audiobook-that-will-not-end.
I realize this is unhealthy behavior. Each time I catch myself doing it, I feel a queasy sort of shame, a sense that I’ve lost or am close to losing something essential and irreplaceable.
I promised myself I’d never become one of those old people who malign new technology as the devil’s work simply because it’s different than what I grew up with. But I’m already lamenting the things we’ve sacrificed to the Digital Age, the stuff smartphones have stolen from us: The ability to remember our best friend’s phone number. Or navigate our own way around a city. Or look something up alphabetically. Or sit and marvel at a sunset without feeling obliged to capture and share it. Or wait for five minutes. For anything. At all.