Friday, August 26, 2016

Techno Traps

They say we fear becoming like our parents but, at the end of the day, it seems inevitable. My mother, dare I say, was a bit of a techno-phobe, consistently asking my brother or I to turn on the computer for her and open Microsoft Word so she could type a document... only to have us print it out and then shut the program down. Each time, my brother and I, being disturbed from what was likely a pertinent activity like watching Jerry Springer, told her that it would be the last time we would aid her in the process and that she had to learn the steps on her own. I think to some extent, I was taken aback at her lack of techno-literacy because it echoed in myself the potential to simply shun things I didn't understand. However, twenty years later, I had to be heavily persuaded to download the Uber app after avoiding what I thought would be an overly complex process. Today, I have inevitabley become a bit (or very much) like my mother, finding myself on the outer fringes of technological utilization. But to some extent, I've found this position to be a bit of a good thing because, as the world moves faster, sometimes it's good to move a bit slower.

Even the Galaxy "Note's" we're in the age of do-do-do.

I once remember reading an article claiming that while we have the ability to do more, what with e-mail, the Internet and social media, we tend to get less done. It seems to be no coincidence that in the age of do-do-do with people bringing their work home and checking into the office on weekends that leisure activities have become increasingly mindless. Pokemon Go, for all its popularity may have given way to physical exercise but not too much cognitive activity. And that's okay. We all need balance in our lives. But sometimes, cutting back on the real things we don't need can change our lifestyle and health (even our economics) for the better.

One of my favorite books read in the past decade was Katherine Graham's autobiography, "Personal History". In it, she describes her husband's struggle with bipolar disorder and, upon wanting to buy a private jet, was warned by her mother that a person with large swings in emotional states may be more harmed than helped in their ability to travel on a moment's notice. While I'm a ways off from purchasing a private anything, I can relate to her husband's struggle with emotionas that run comparatively wild. Sometimes, too many choices can be something of a burden as doubt and the act of making decisions can impose difficulty on one's daily life. But, for me, this is an area in which I've found "low-tech" food (and living) to be of help.

When I was young, I used to love going with my mother to the grocery store... looking at all the colors in the produce section. Today, in a rare break from my mother's tendencies, I tend to spend most of my time in this same section (my mother, on the other hand, wandered more into the pasta isle). And, sometimes, it's nice to be relegated to a particular section of the supermarket where your options are limited but healthy. For me, returning to low-tech foods or foods not manufactured within the confines of four walls not only helps my body and mind, it also helps me to structure my time with the cooking process. And of course, there are other "techno-tricks" I rely on to structure my time. Herein lay a few. Enjoy!

I Walk: While walking to a designated locale is a bit easier on the pedestrian-friendly streets of DC, I try to "walk" my errands whenever possible. Indeed, I look like a bit of a vagrant carrying grocery bags on the suburban streets of Connecticut (and who's to say I'm not a vagrant at heart) but walking where I can, slows me down, exposes me to some sunlight (see Sunshine and Structure) and makes me really think about where I'm going and what I need to do (i.e. do I really want that milkshake?). At the end of the day, walking is one of those things that can literally lead to a slower pace of life and one that's more enjoyable (and fit).

Even food produced in a factory likes to pretend like it's not.

I Try to Eat Low-Tech Foods (When Possible): Low-tech foods or foods produced by nature is, of course, a misnomer. While it may not seem advanced to us, planting and cultivating crops is a technological advancement that has allowed us to settle in communities rather than roam for food as our ancestors did. But just as there was an agricultural revolution there has been an industrial one as well and today we can either forage for our food (it's still done in small amounts), farm for our food or make it in a factory. The issue with many foods made in a factory is that they're not often of the nutritionally dense variety. Rather, we often have to eat more manufactured food to feel satiated leading to issues with obesity. Furthermore, while farming has changed the appearance of food (Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is a mind blowing read), they are still grown in soil that has to be tended to, and with the help of the sun that takes it's time with the process. At the end of the day, I feel we can identify these factors by how each type of food makes us feel. A bit earlier, I spoke about a reference to Paul Graham's emotional battles and for me, I've found natural foods to play a large role in the healing process. There are doughnut holes which taste great but sometimes make me feel more on edge then when I eat a home cooked meal. Below are a few natural foods (along with their benefits) I enjoy that take some time to grow but are definitely worth it.

Cucumbers: Hydrating

Watermelon: Viatmins A and C

Tomatoes: Lycopene (and antioxidant)

Corn: Also has antioxidants

Garlic: Contains B6

Beans: Protein, obvi.

I Try Not to Look at My Phone (When Possible): I was out to lunch with a friend this summer and, upon trying to think of the name of a restaurant she had been to, pulled out my phone for research only to hear her say, "no, I can think of the name." Her rationale was that people look at their phones too much for information that can often be recalled from memory. Indeed, I remember reading in National Geographic that the age of memory is long behind us. While the agricultural revolution brought many advancements, it still couldn't develop a television post-haste and so, there were people who memorized the Iliad or Beowulf and recited them for the entertainment of others. Today, however, with a lot of memory stored in our phones, we are free to use our energy for other means. However, for me, relying less on my phone has led to a few "advancements" in my own life.

I have to talk to people: That's right, it sounds terrifying but it can be done. They say that as our technology increases at a faster rate, our conversational skills have been shown to decline. Mine have never been great but relying less on my phone makes me text a friend to see when the local farmer's market is. It make me ask my grandma for a recipe instead of looking it up online and/or it makes me talk to the person I'm grabbing lunch with. Beyond that, I generally avoid people at all costs.

It helps with my memory: See above.

It makes me more productive: As stated above, an author once wrote that despite the ability to get more done with technology, the less we are shown accomplish. Of course, it's all in how you use the technology given to you but, for me, the second I don't want to make a decision, I take to Facebook or Instagram or the Internets. Needless to say, I don't always use technology to my advantage. But as I've been using it less for both information and entertainment, I'm forced to bite the bullet and accomplish the things I would rather put off. And after I do, I of course go back to checking Facebook.

So there you have it, a few ways to reduce the use of technology but feel better in the process. And, to some extent, cultures such as the Amish have been shown to have lower rates of cancer and other diseases. So, who knows. Try it, you'll like it.

Speaking of history...

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