Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What's important to me

I bought a new laptop this week.  My old laptop is five years old, and probably has a few years of life left in it yet, but a number of factors played a part in my decision to upgrade.  Obviously, the newer laptop is more powerful, and has fewer little problems than the old one.  Now that I have the thing I wanted, though, it's just another thing in the collection of things I have around me.

It's a reminder of the Christmas days of my childhood.  I would get presents from my parents, and other relatives, and it wasn't long before the thing I had been anticipating for months became just another thing.  It's not that I'm ungrateful.  Far from it, actually.  The thing was still valued, but the joy of owning it was short lived.  What remained was a feeling.  Someone else had bought something for me.

My fiancĂ©e recently bought a book for me, as a birthday present.  What was thoughtful about it was that she took notice of something I said in passing, knew exactly what to get and bought it for me.  Long after I've read the book, probably many times, the thought behind the giving of the book will remain.  The laptop, I bought for myself, and I'm pleased that I have a new computer, but it simply serves a purpose.  Other than the photos, music and copies of personal communications it holds, and the ability to communicate with loved ones who are far away, there is no inherent emotional value to the laptop.

In Ancient Wisdom, Modern World, the Dalai Lama states that the unhappiest people he has met are those who have the most worldly riches.  His argument is the more we have, the more anxiety we feel over the possibility of losing it.  So the question has to be whether we own our possessions or whether they own us.

An attachment to things

I have quite a large collection of films and music.  There was a time when watching the films, or listening to music, was a social activity.  Now, the friends who watched films or listened to music with me have families, other responsibilities, and little time.

Similarly, I like driving at night, especially in the rain.  It took me a long time to figure out why I would like such a thing, and then I remembered being the designated driver for friends who wanted to drink on a night out.  Other times, I would be one of the passengers in a friend's car, at an age where being able to drive was a novelty, so we would spend a night being driven around, because it was now possible.  Music would be playing, and we often drove down unlit, largely deserted country roads.

Sometimes a song will play on the radio, and a memory associated with the song will come to mind for the first time in years.  I'll remember a place, an event, but mostly the people who were there.

An attachment to people

It's difficult to say how we feel about others.  I've had a few people walk out of my life or pass away, never being sure whether they ever meant anything to me, and I suppose that most of us could say something similar.  In fact, everyone with whom I have spent a great deal of time means something to me.

There's nothing I would like more than to have my friends at my home, having a chat in person, rather than through a phone or over an internet connection.  Life just isn't like that, though.  I'm as guilty as anyone of having little time to spare, and it seems that we have so many things in our lives which steal the time we would use to connect with each other in a meaningful way.

Maybe it is an effort to make time for friends, but maybe it's important that we do it.  We have so much technology devoted to communication now, and yet people arguably feel more lonely than ever.  Communication through an earpiece or screen seems to have replaced communicating in person, and it is a poor substitute.

Technology has shortened our attention span and, far from making our lives easier, as promised, we live in a world where more is expected from us, where our time has become a commodity to be bought and sold.

If someone takes the time to sit with me, tell me how their day has been and what is happening in their life right now, I'm happy.

Our lives are busy but, if we don't have time to spend with friends and loved ones, what exactly are we working for?  More things?  Will that make us happy?

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