The View from the Roadside

A week or two ago I had the opportunity to travel to Yorkshire. I wasn’t there long, and the purpose and hurried nature of the trip made me think back to the novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It also evoked a feeling that’s been creeping over me for quite some time, which is that we miss much of what the world has to offer by being so wrapped up in rushing around distracted.

This trip was definitely of the rushing and focussed variety and as I drove I wished that I could pull over and enjoy the Yorkshire scenery, take time to head off onto a side road and get creatively lost. Of course, I was unable to do any of these things, and I didn’t. But it reminded me of Pirsig as he mentions the fact that the real scenery is along the side roads, but also that the road less travelled is often quicker and more enjoyable due to it being less crowded. This also makes me think of social networking. I cancelled my Twitter account at the start of the year, for precisely these sort of reasons; in addition to Twitter’s increasingly aggressive use of tracking.

I am noticing much more that our world is awash in digital noise, we rush around getting to destinations, chasing distractions and sharing all of this on social networking while staring fixatedly into our mobiles and tablets.  I remember a car journey last year, where I was trying to strike up a conversation with my passenger only to find that she was distracted by Twitter and Facebook, the smile on her face chilled me and made me think of a trance like state.

The culmination of all this now is a sense of wondering where all this will end. Will we continue to build a world where we rush headlong to our destinations, missing the scenery; distracted on the way and distracted when we’re there? What’s the value of a world like that? I sincerely question whether that’s a world worth building or worthy of support.

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