April 21, 2010

Death by Fashion

Hipsters scare me. Odds are you do too.  Heck, I even scare myself.  If you read Elephant Journal, you are hip, you are cool, you are “conscious,” and if you wear glasses when you drive, chances are you’re at risk of committing manslaughter.  I realize attacking readers of one’s column isn’t exactly standard industry practice, but I consider it self-defense.   You see, I am a motorcyclist and a bicyclist and I’m getting scared to ride on the roads.  The reason?  Eyeglasses.  Specifically, the oh so hip “new generation” “cubic” aka “Sarah Palin” frames with chunky side arms that now so fashionably start really wide then get narrower as they get closer to the ears.  They may look chic.  They may be cool.  They may make Sarah Palin look intellectual.  They may be hip.  But they are blinders.  Like the leather blinders that horses are made to wear as they pull buggies and carriages down the road, we are wearing blinders which block our peripheral vision; and prevent us from noticing motorcyclists and bicyclists riding next to us when we’re driving.  (The same is true for today’s oversized sunglasses).

My curmudgeonly rant doesn’t end here.  Those of you who are lucky enough not to need corrective lenses aren’t off the hook.  People 18-40 (perhaps the lion’s share of Elephant’s readership) are increasingly using their cell phones while they drive.  Unless we’re using it with Bluetooth, on speakerphone, or with some other hands free device, we are not driving with both hands on the wheel and we are at increased risk of having an accident.  Moreover, many of us aren’t just using them to place and receive calls, we’re texting while we are driving!  Clearly, if we’re pushing buttons to try to communicate, or even looking down to read someone else’s text message, we are not paying attention to pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists.   Recent studies have indicated that those who use cell phones while driving are at an even greater risk of having an accident than persons who are driving while under the influence of alcohol.  As I see it, using a cell phone while driving, esp., if texting, is criminally irresponsible and being a menace to society.  Persons who engage in such behavior should have their licenses revoked.

Now, here’s where I really get scared.  There are certain hip individuals out on the roads who are not only using cell phones while they are driving, but they are also wearing those new hip eyeglass frames while they’re doing it!  Riding a motorcycle or a bike is now akin to playing Russian roulette and I for one refuse to have to my corpse rolled into the local morgue with a tag on my toe which reads: “D.O.A. (dead on arrival) C.O.D. (cause of death) – hipster.”  Gentle readers, I don’t want that to happen to you or anyone you love either.

This article might just be a Public Service Announcement warning us about the dangers of hip eyeglasses and cell phones, but there’s actually a bit more to say.  I like to wax metaphorical.  I like discussing the mundane ennui of life and looking at them from a spiritual perspective and then offering what might come forth as a gift.

So, here’s a nugget for us to ponder.  Even if you don’t wear those sorts of flava of the month eyeglasses and even if you don’t use a cell phone when you drive, you might consider pondering how we 21st Century citizens wear blinders in life that prevent us from being fully present to the present moment.  You might consider how often you are plugged into electronic things with buttons on them during the day in ways that prevent you from being fully present to reality, let alone to those around you.

I admit that I’m a bit addicted to the internet and social networking sites.  I primarily use that medium to help me connect with people, which is a passion of mine.  And yet, ironically, that very thing often prevents me from being present to my son.  I’m a single dad and I only have my boy a few days each week and I have stupidly spent time interacting virtually with the internet and not with him.  I have a hunch some of you can relate.   I work on the campus of a major University and it pains me to see how many people walking by are either listening to their mp3 players or talking or texting on their cell phones instead of being able to notice the beauty of creation around them, let alone say “Hi.”  I see the same anti-social behavior at coffee shops and at the gym.  People aren’t people any more; we’re becoming zombies who are cocooned from being able to interact with others.

In fact, an increasing number of the young people I work with prefer to text me or their professors to ask for extensions on assignments or to tell me about a problem they are having.   Young people are increasingly asking people out via text message as rejection via text is easier for them to handle.  They are also increasingly breaking up with their boy and girlfriends via text message and they sometimes pretend to receive a text when they are feeling awkward around someone so they won’t have to deal with them. I’ve even seen a Facebook Fan Page for people who “text when things are feeling awkward.”  It is a tremendous loss to society if people lose the ability to boldly have face-to-face interactions with others.  It demonstrates fear of intimacy and lack of community.  It even handicaps our ability to be spiritual and relate to the divine.

I was honored when the folks at Elephant invited me to write for them.  I think they invited me to contribute because they perceive me as being an open-minded, compassion-focused, progressive Christian and they want to increase the diversity and outreach of this fine journal.  I’ve written a few articles so far with the theme and focus that they expected. Yet it has dawned on me that I have a new platform to convey all sorts my odd notions and musings about life.   My ability to communicate with people has dramatically increased and with that in mind, it has dawned on me that writing for Elephant could save my life – and maybe yours.  May those who have ears to hear, listen.  May those who could consider wearing their old pair of (less hip) eyeglass frames while they drive (assuming the lenses about the same prescription) do so.  May those who have cell phones, not use them while they drive.  And, may those of us who struggle with wearing “blinders” of any sort, or who are finding ourselves overly distracted from what really matters – regain eyes to see.  Amen?

I also recently wrote about motorcycling and community.

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