Alan and I were sitting at Higher Grounds having some coffee after a great day of solitude at a relaxed pace up the North Face of Tahquitz. The locals call it Lily Rock. It was fathers day and less crowded on the rock and in the town than most weekdays. Such a nice reprieve from the often noisy and overly crowded weekends that are the norm in Summer.
As usual, I was spraying about alpinism or soloing or something when an older lady sat down. She sat there listening to us for a few minutes, and by the time she broke into the conversation I think we were talking about existentialism and if logic should govern how we spend our lives on this planet. She entered the conversation without warning, and directed this question at me: “Why do you climb?”
I honestly don’t have an answer. I didn’t then, and I don’t now. I was thinking about it this evening when I was hanging out in Jamul with my family, and I thought that the best answer is: What reasons? Who needs reasons? I just like to do it. Why are you drinking that coffee? Your survival isn’t contingent on it. I guess sometimes we just do things because we want to. There is nothing profound, or some great meaning of life explanation. But I digress…
Quickly she began to tear down on my generation–millennials–and our strange infatuation with technology and our being self-centered. I’ll give her that. We talked a bit, and I gave her my experience with students and technology in academia and agree’d that, technology, as I’ve experienced it has created some serious attention issues. If not to others, to ourselves. And definitely a separation and shift in how we interact with one another.
And that is where the conversation stayed–until she got into the whole Trump thing, but that’s not worth going into. Oh, and there was the Nazi Germany part. But I digress…
We spend a lot of time on our phones. We spend a lot of time manipulating the social templates that serve as resumes for our connected world. This is who I am, this is what I do, and this is what I’ve done. Sometimes those networks aren’t nearly as important to others as they are to us. Social networks work more like mirrors, and our network contributors and followers just affirm that we are significant by liking the shit we say and the posts we publish. But at the end of the day does it really bring us that much closer?
I don’t really have an answer, but I can say this: the more time I spend on the fringes of society and less maintaining my social network relations the less my phone buzzes, and sometimes that gets me down. I’m like, “Man, I’m pathetic… nobody texted me” (sad face). I think that contingency in itself is kind of pathetic. But there I was, having a deep conversation with someone I didn’t know or agree with in a town that wasn’t my own over a cup of coffee.
The next week I was sitting in traffic and looking here and there and couldn’t help but notice how close we all are constantly. We’re stuffed into these cities, but most of the time we just roll our windows up and pretend that the person we just cut off is just some inanimate object. I think it would be cool if we all drove with the windows down during rush hour every morning and said “Hi! How’s your morning?” I don’t know what the why would be, but maybe it would keep us off our phones just that much longer, and remind us that there is a living person who will respond everywhere that we go–hopefully.
I guess it just seems crazy that we spend so much time on our phones and ignore the real people standing in front of, and beside us. I think it would be cool if we smiled more often, stopped competing so much, and opened ourselves up to the opportunity, that constantly presents itself, to give a random stranger a chance. Who knows what you’ll find, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try.
Maybe you walk away from the conversation wondering why you do the things you do and write a blog post about it, or maybe you meet someone that you include in your experience for the rest of your life.