“Turn off the goddamned video games or I’ll smash that crap to pieces!!”, I screamed at my teenage son. See…It was Sunday night, and I just got home from a work trip to find that he’d locked himself in his room on Friday after school and played 48 hours of video games in 3 days of beautiful San Francisco springtime. Makes me crazy….. Dopamine Dopey Dope. Doped Doper, on the screen like a useless, lost zombie. 48 hours…
I don’t get it. Sure, I’m the CEO of IPSOFACTO, IT Services, which means I look at screens all day. But to me, screens are just a modern evil… guiding me toward a paycheck. I get off my technology every chance I can, and I look at plants, birds, the sky, I walk my dog, get an espresso, people watch…. The Buddhists say “Rest your eyes a while on a long view. It heals the mind.” Our screens are the short view (which is the bad view in Buddhism). Did I mention I’m a serious meditator too! I practice Satvik Hindu meditation.
See, I’m not drawn to video games and don’t like TVs or screens, in general. No Thrones for me. I enjoy the extraordinary benefits my phone and computers give me (like buying Ayurvedic soap on line) but there’s too much fluff and junk on those screens. Sometimes after I turn a screen off, I wonder if I was just in a coma…
And last week I was in a Burger Meister for 90 minutes, 7pm to 8:30. Across from me was a family; Dad, Mom, teen age daughter, 9 year old son. Dad couldn’t take his eyes off the TV screen, and mom and daughter only looked at their phones; son had some video handheld gadget. After the food arrived, still no talking or communicating… only screens and food-in-mouth stuffing. No smiling, no stories, no thoughts, no emotions, no humans at the table. I sat there, observing them for 90 minutes, while I played and ate with my 5 year old son. That family didn’t talk to each other at all, at all. Sometimes mom and daughter would show their screens to each other. But I almost cried for them. Family dinner, no connection. What a shitty world!
So last week I was reading Silas Marner by George Elliott (1861). In this book, a family is having dinner. Mom, Dad, 19 year old son, and 16 year old daughter. Dad slams his hands on the dining table, rattling the crystal glasses and silver. He stands up and says, “I will not tolerate my son secretly reading French Poetry at the dining table.” See…the son is hiding his book under the table on his lap, and as the family talks, his mind is elsewhere. OMG, I’d do anything to have my sons read French poetry at the dining table. I’d even read it to them.
But you catch my drift, right?
People have been trying to check out and disconnect forEVER. The screens have just made it a million times easier. We must be strong enough to use the screens for advancing our lives, and put them down when they are deteriorating out lives. It seems so weird that first world countries are so AWESOME and yet so drastically over-populated, but the humans here are not even conscious most of the time; lost in their screens. Our world is a magnificent playground, not a somatic deathtrap. (oops, sorry, I’m soap-boxing…)
The good news…is…
My oldest son (the video game addict). He was TERRIBLE at collaborating when he was in 3rd grade. He just could not work with others; NO Collaboration, at all. And at school, every two months we had those uncomfortable meetings with teachers about what a bad collaborator my son was. Then one day, I saw him in the living room playing Minecraft, but this time with headphones and a speaker. (Caveat: when my boys were small, I made them play video games in the living room. Never alone in the dark in their rooms.) Anyway, that day I walked by my son and I heard him say into the microphone, “Ok, you need my shovels and I need your energy, so let’s trade and you need to finish your part by Thursday so I can finish my part by Friday.” I thought to myself…. “Hm….if we change around some of the words, it sounds like one of my work meetings; and so guess what? Minecraft taught my son to collaborate. Yay. A few months later at one of those uncomfortable school meetings, instead of the teachers berating my son, they said, “I don’t know what you did, Steve, but he is one of the school’s best collaborators. He’s such a great leader. Double-yay.
Remember I told you I am a meditator, right? Because of that gift of playing video games when my son was little, for the next 10 meditation sessions, I used a Satvik meditation technique to analyze video games and I share with you the results. Offer your kids to play 50 hours of every video game out there, but not a minute more. Each game has something to teach our kids, but after 50 hours, video games deteriorate their humanity, and they turn the gift of life into a liability, changing them (mostly our boys) into dopey dopamine dopes.
(caveat: if it’s a sunny springtime in SF, no video games, at all)
Be well, and gods’ blessings.
Steve and Team.