The Air Outside the Digital World
Modern life is tug-of-war between the digital world and the natural world. For some of us the pull is the daily news, for others it's Instagram. Perhaps for you it's your inbox or the financial markets or the metaverse or whatever turns you on. Most of us are victim to some covert digidiction (digital-addiction) which tempts our minds into a wormhole of endless satiation.
I have many of these technological hair-triggers, which rip me from the present and drop me into a digital mist of my own choosing. My favorite is certainly YouTube, which offers me mindless relief with the movement of a finger.
Bored? Anxious? Tired? Pissy? There's a remedy for it all! Just open YouTube and Boom!—an hour-long interview with Bob Dylan that I didn't know I needed! Phew! As the video begins, my digital desire is satiated and I can finally tune out of that tactile world around me.
Whether it's on our phone or the TV, this digital datascape offers solace from the real world by proffering us a fake one.
Of late I've dove body-first into Bikram yoga. I leave my phone in the car, turn down the day and enter into a space void of this digital haze permeating so many parts of my life. In Bikram yoga, one embodies 26 postures over the span of 90 minutes in a room heated to 105 degrees. It's basically a super intense stretching session in a sauna. It's as stifling as it sounds, but this roasting is designed to loosen the body and strengthen the mind. And it works!
To maintain this simmering studio, the yoga instructor places an oblong blockade underneath the door to prevent cool air from sneaking into the space. Bikram is one big heat trap.
But occasionally someone sneaks out to refill their water, and as the door swings open a brief wave of crisp air unexpectedly clutches my skin. Ahhhh. 😌 For just a moment I'm awash with the tender touch of this fresh wind, teasing me with the relief that will reward me beyond the studio doors.
Certainly you've felt the cooling power of an unforeseen breeze on a sweltering summer day. It soothes our senses, calms our minds and refreshes us in a manner more deeply-drawn than anything we find inside a screen.
On such sweltering summer days, I occasionally enjoy a masochistic afternoon run in the peak of the midday humidity. By the time I return home I am of course so blazingly thirsty that a cup of ice water brings bliss to my body and a break to my brain. When we really need it—when it is earned—there is nothing more nourishing than a simple gulp of water.
I recall my daily jogs up New York's East River wherein, after six sticky miles, I would be so desperate for H2O that I would cast my eyes to the river, and in its sun-gleamed waves I would envision myself becoming a boating captain. Literally, I would begin to believe that my next career move should be to pursue a life at sea. "Water! Water! Water!" I would dream.
Eventually I would arrive back home and violently fill two glasses with ice. The feeling of frosty water kissing my lips, caressing my tongue, and tracing down my throat like a glacier into my stomach is an elation unrivaled inside the air conditioned comforts of our digital day.
Of course, after quenching my thirst, my fisherman dreams would dissolve and I'd trudge back to my computer for "work."
At present I'm sitting on my porch while my dog lays in the front yard basking in the pleasant September sun. A rambunctious pooch unfit for our unfenced yard, Rooh spends most of her days indoors. But like any animal—and that includes humans— she's most relaxed when given the time to revel in the warm embrace of the midday sun. As it beats against her fur and her body breathes against the grass, I know she is happy. And as the wind streaks against my flesh, I am happy with her.
Later I will inevitably play fetch with her. She will get thirsty and eventually seek the cool air inside, where a refreshing bowl of water awaits her.
Within these delights we find our common roots—man and beast alike—where we all mutually renew in a ray of sun, in a splash of air, in a swill of water. These simple satisfactions are the reminders of our physical body, our connection to pleasures of Planet Earth.
No matter how thick our digital haze becomes we will always be, firstly, denizens of Nature; faithful servants to those elements which constitute us: Water, Wind and Sun. They weld us, ever so briefly, to the flowing source of Gaia.
For millennia, all living things have enjoyed these sensual rewards. As my phone teases me from the desk beside, I try to hold on to that feeling of what true satiation is.
For eventually, I'll be back on YouTube—lost in a maze of disembodied mania.