Category Archives: Technology

Let’s Talk.

The Hudson reminded me of the Ganges last night.

Last night I arrived in NYC again, skimming over the Hudson at sunset to touch down in the city once more.

I’ve been saying my mantra ‘I’m trying not to travel – it just keeps happening!’ Needless to say, I must not be trying very hard, because my wheels keep turning. This month I came from England straight to LA, to Joshua Tree, to Santa Barbara, to Laguna Beach, to Florida, and now back in the Big Apple. It’s all connected in an attempt to take kirtan wherever there is an enthusiasm for it, but it can sometimes feel like living in a series of trailers. Movie trailers that is, not Winnebagos. The people around me are changing all the time – the places, the pillows, the temperature. I try and stay as adaptable as I can, but it can be overwhelming at times. As soon as you adjust, you’re changing again. There are only a few constants in the midst of it all.

One is my personal sadhana – my japa meditation that I do every day. Though I sometimes struggle with time zone changes to get up early and do it first thing, and doing it on the plane is an exercise in fighting every kind of distraction possible, if I give it priority, it gives focus and spiritual strength to my life on a daily basis. The other is unfortunately, my laptop. Staying connected with the world through email, Skype, and though I hate to say it, Facebook, gives some continuity. It’s alright I suppose – a symptom of our modern age. But sometimes I worry that looking at a screen becomes easier than interacting with those around me. Sometimes you just don’t want to answer the same old questions again, or tell your life history to yet another new set of perfectly well intentioned people.

I’ve always been shy, so this is something I’ve thought about a lot in my life. What is the value of making the endeavour to connect personally? In gaining confidence, and trying to remember that my laptop and phone are just tools for genuine human exchange, it’s getting easier to realise that the true and deep connection between people is magical. Closing the email inbox and opening myself to an unexpected conversation in person has often had the most extraordinary consequences, within and without. It’s common sense, but sometimes that’s not so common.

I attribute so much of anything going right in my life to encouragement and love from others. There is a quality of energy exchange that seems to be able to transform, from the inside out. All the more so in person, as I have been experiencing lately. Though there are all too many people whose kind words are only niceties, there are also an equal amount who really mean what they say. If words took physical shape and form as they emerged, perhaps they’d be jewels.

Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.  – Charles Dickens

 

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Voices Across Oceans

I often moan about the way technology influences my life. I remember the days when I didn’t own a mobile phone; when I actually received handwritten letters in the post and when a keyboard was something I played music on. It was kind of nice to not be accessible at every moment – or at least to be up against the expectation that I should be.

Now, after travelling for the past five years on and off, my once fairly small social circle has exploded to include thousands, across continents and timezones. It can be quite overwhelming to stay in touch, or just understand the nature of those relationships, kept alive by Facebook messages and occasional Skype calls.

The other day though, I thanked God for technology. I met a wonderful lady in Melbourne this year – a fellow Hare Krishna who also happens to love Carnatic music. While I was there we shared a happy hour swapping songs and ragas, and she told me how she’d been doing the same with another lady she knows in India. So last Friday morning we all met up on a conference call to have a music lesson – morning in London, afternoon in Coimbatore and evening in Melbourne. It was so enlivening, and unexpectedly easy, given that we couldn’t even see each other (which I know is possible too). We learnt ‘Jamuna Kinare’, a bhajan in Hindi by the Carnatic composer, Swati Thirunal. Below is a version sung by Prince Rama Varma.

Ahh. Sharing music gives me a warm feeling inside. Perhaps I can live with Skype after all.

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I, Me, MiPhone?

It sits in the palm of my hand, glowing smugly. It knows it looks good. I gingerly touch its glassy surface and its face lights up, eager, ready to serve.

Somehow, though I resisted it for a long time, I have become the recipient of a new iPhone. This summer I scoffed as I watched my friends buying them, each one raving about them even more than the last. Even as I slip it into my pocket now, I feel like a traitor.

I’ve never been a huge fan of gadgets. Whilst many of my friends were always eagerly showing off their new Mp3 players or flip-top phones, it took me long enough just to get an old second-hand brick Nokia. Though I finally bought an iPod a few years ago, and got used to carrying a phone around, at least some of the time, I I resisted bowing to the latest fads. New models were brought in; fancy colours, thinner bodies. I just stuck with my old ones – if it ain’t broke right?

Perhaps there’s an air of self righteousness in my desire to resist technology. Part of me feels I belong to a gentler age, where mail just took time to get places and screens were found on doors. As I scan the iPhone applications with the slide of a finger, I feel a pang for rough paper and pencils, and maps, and compasses. I feel a pang for dials on phones and for the excitement of opening envelopes. Perhaps this is just as silly as those nostalgic shops that sell replicas of Victorian back scratchers and people that insist on whipping their cream with a hand-turned whisk because ‘it’s more fun’ (me).

Ultimately my fear is one of losing control. I fear the loss of the physical and tactile in the digital age. I miss old style ‘real’ photos, just because I fear losing everything at the touch of a button when it hangs in virtual reality somewhere. I fear losing control over my willpower – checking emails the moment they arrive and interrupting conversations to answer the urgent call of a vibrating tablet. I fear dependence. Sometimes I wish I could cut all technology out of my life with surgical precision -no mess, no fuss – edges stitched neatly to join the gaping hole.

But perhaps technology is just what you make of it. After all, you can use a knife to kill someone, or cut an avocado. Perhaps the iPhone can be a tool for whatever you want it to be. It could be an I, me and MyPhone, ready and waiting at any moment to fulfil as many desires as possible, or it could just be handy, like a spanner. It could just help you find places, and file things. Perhaps I needn’t be so afraid. Still, I’ll be vigilant.

Welcome, useful friend. I’ll be keeping my i on you.

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