Note to Self: The Day After Earth Day

A diary of a new iPad owner taking a break from technology

Friday, April 23, 2010 - 08:05 AM

Like others on this show, Morehouse psychology professor — and Takeaway contributor — David Wall Rice bought into the hype surrounding Apple's new iPad this week. But on Earth Day, he put his new device away and got insight from a day without technology.

Today I begin with this iPad thing. I am aware that our Jim Colgan beat me to the device, taking it to the street to see if he could lock down a date. But I'm married with a kid so my takeway is a bit delayed, and different.

I got it on Wednesday, loaded all the videos and music and apps and books to make the tool an extension of me. I'm “penning” the words you're reading now on the nifty gadget. The thing is cool. It makes the iPhone look bulky and outdated. I'll be able to watch movies on it as I zip to New York in a week or so to meet with my mentor. When I get to him I'll tap the screen two or three times and voila, ready to get down to research and writing and thinking. And I imagine he'll be kind, but only mildly impressed, thinking, I suppose, "a pen and paper did just fine in my work with Howard Thurman, and Du Bois and Kenneth Clark and Geoffrey Canada," and all the others the 89-year-old Yale and Columbia Emeritus Professor Edmund W. Gordon shared his genius with through the years.

I learned the importance of authentic engagement from The Professor. I've applied it to both theory and practice in my time as a college professor and in my press toward scholarship.

On Earth Day I relegated the neet-o iPad gadget to the messenger bag I tote around, at least until evening time, after lecturing for students in preparation for their finals, and quality time in Piedmont Park with my son. While there we counted dogs, bikes, and birds. We also looked at the moon while eating organic fruit bars and sitting on damp, cool grass under a water oak tree.   

That was authentic engagement. The air was fresh, if also pollen heavy. The company was perfect as the two-and-a-half-year-old talked of trains, bridges, school buses and too-big dogs before saying, “good night peoples, good night park”.

Earth Day made me pause to be present. That was rewarding.

And now back to technology. Please don't get it twisted; I dig the iPad a lot. I just downloaded Howard Zinn's "A People’s History of the United States" to the book application — amazing.  Still, for me it’s a hurdle. There is a distancing from others that I am acutely aware of, with the ramping-up of personal technology. I’m not sure if my orienting as a research psychologist or my age is coloring my perspective, but my wary eye is there nonetheless.

Of course this has all been said before.

I’m writing this to help me focus on being there, to be of the world and not just about it. Earth Day was a sobering reminder of that. I hope The Professor will be pleased that I was able to bring it back to center.

I’ll have to send him an email to see what he thinks.


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Comments [3]

William from Boston

It seems most important to me that we as citizens begin to take a reflective and much needed account of what you term authentic engagement. As technology continues to increase the speed and quantity of our daily communication and it seems that we've lost the quality of authentic engagement. Does an "lol" effectively replace the sound and look of laughter, does high definition ever really capture the essence of the sunset, and what process of analytic thinking do we loose when scratch out and erase marks are no longer there to tell the story of the writing process.

Apr. 25 2010 10:23 PM

On Earth day, I like to remember that there is no such things as bad weather. We all need, rain, cold, hot, snow, sleet. There's really just inopportune weather.

Apr. 23 2010 04:47 PM
Donovan from Midtown-Atlanta

I wonder what the future of paper and pens will be given the rise of personal electronics. Will they go away completely or fade into antiquity like the quill and ink of old? Maybe one day there will be reenactments of Obama signing healthcare legislation with an "authentic pen and paper set" opposed to the fingerprint analysis that I imagine would be soooo cool.

Whatever the case, I think the Earth would appreciate technology like iPad's as an improved means to an unimproved end (I believe that one day the Earth will shake the human race of of her back like a dog with fleas.)

I just can't help but wonder if a little waste isn't necessary. I write this now from a laptop and wonder how much better these sentences would be had I put in the thought that goes along with writing by hand- or worse, by typewriter.

Apr. 23 2010 04:45 PM

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