24 November 2020

Scroll if you must, stroll if you can, try stopping too

Apparently the average person scrolls through 300 feet of mobile content every day. Of course this doesn’t mean that the average person reads all the relevant content, but still it’s quite a distance for a finger to walk, so to speak.

It’s incredible, really. Just imagine a time, let’s say twenty years ago. We couldn’t access such volumes of content with a finger-swish. Well, not even a fraction of it. Of course this doesn’t mean that each ‘scroller’ is appropriately empowered. One recalls the pertinent Sinhala adage, ‘kiyannaa kaese keevath, asannaa sihi buddhiyen aesiya yuthuya (regardless of how the sayer says, the listener should employ his/her wisdom consciously when listening).'

There’s a lot of invaluable information online; facts, figures and analyses which, if easily and quickly obtained, could make a world of difference to the curious. There’s also a lot of nonsense, speculation clothed as established fact and absolute falsehoods. There are mischief makers and there’s mischief. All the more reason to ‘go in’ with eyes wide open.  

In any event, it is hard to think of any time in history where a single finger or indeed a single fingertip was used so intensely and continuously. The fingertip has allowed us to access incredible volumes of inspiration. The finger has ‘walked’ much in a space that can inspire one and all in innumerable ways. There’s absolutely no argument that this space has yielded amazing things to the world and to the human species. Someday someone will figure out a way to calculate the good, the bad and ugly. We will one day have a (rolling) balance sheet. For now, some will celebrate, some will be wary and some will condemn outright.  

It’s here though. And it will remain well into the foreseeable future. The finger will have work to do. The mind too. Consciousness. And if they combine in fortuitous ways, we would have reason to be grateful, to celebrate.

People walk with fingers now. They still walk with feet. Today it’s called ‘exercise’ by some. You can walk along a ‘walking track.’ You can walk on a machine. You can walk miles inside your own house or room or a corner of a room. Technology allows this. You can even get a count of the number of steps you’ve walked, the distance traveled and how many floors you’ve climbed.

That’s walking. In a way. One can walk thus and one can also stroll. That however is not the only strolling that’s possible. There’s strolling which for some is still an integral part of ‘work.’ Think of those who have to walk to catch a bus or train. Think of those who cultivate, those who harvest, those who work in mines. Those who fight too.

For all the focus on that which has to be done, these strolls also take us through fascinating spaces. We see things. We hear things. We encounter people. These things are not easily copy-paste. It’s harder to share. There are no ‘like’ buttons which can be seen by friends, friends of friends or the general public. There’s no ‘subscribe’ button either. They are just there. 

We pass them a million times slower than we scroll through reams of online content. Does this mean that it is an inefficient kind of ‘browsing’? Some may argue that this indeed is the case. On the other hand not all knowledge acquired is tangible. Not everything learned can be quantified or categorized. Not all wisdom can be described. There are online courses, internet enabled learning processes and these can deliver certification too in soft and/or hard form. Scrolling courses, we could call them.

The learning associated with strolling is of a different order. Ask those who walk and they’ll tell you. There’s empowerment too, but it is of a different kind. The theory of saying/listening alluded to at the beginning of this piece is applicable here as well. The eyes and ears can gather. They can miss too. A lot. The mind, framed by the familiar, habit and wisdom obtained and synthesized up to the point can play all kinds of tricks.

Sometimes you need to stop. Just stop. And let the world come to you. Sometimes you need to give your finger a rest. Your feet too. And of course the mind. That’s ultimate.  

Other articles in the series 'In Passing...':  [published in the 'Daily News']  

Eyes that watch the world and cannot be forgotten   Let's start with the credits, shall we? 
The 'We' that 'I' forgot 
'Duwapang Askey,' screamed a legend, almost 40 years ago
Dances with daughters
Reflections on shameless writing

Is the old house still standing?
 Magic doesn't make its way into the classifieds

Small is beautiful and is a consolation  
Distance is a product of the will
Akalanka Athukorala, at 13+ alre
ady a hurricane hunter
Did the mountain move, and if so why?
Ever been out of Colombo?
Anya Raux educated me about Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA)
Wicky's Story You can always go to GOAT Mountain
Let's learn the art of embracing damage
Kandy Lake is lined with poetry
There's never a 'right moment' for love
A love note to an unknown address in Los Ange
A dusk song for Rasika
How about creating some history?
How far away are the faraway places?
There ARE good people!
Re-placing people in the story of schooldays  
When we stop, we can begin to learn
Routine and pattern can checkmate poetry

Janani Amanda Umandi threw a b'day party for her father 
Sriyani and her serendipity shop
Forget constellations and the names of oceans
Where's your 'One, Galle Face'?

Maps as wrapping paper, roads as ribbons
Yasaratne, the gentle giant of Divulgane  
Katharagama and Athara Maga
Victories are made by assists
Lost and found between weaver and weave
The Dhammapada and word-intricacies
S.A. Dissanayake taught children to walk in the clouds
White is a color we forget too often  
The most beautiful road is yet to meet a cartographer