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I love technology…

One of the most tragic and understated negative effects of technology, however, is the way it interferes with our presence in the world. I’m not talking about identity, the number of likes we get on a post, the number of friends we have on social media or otherwise, or the influence we have on the world around us. I am literally talking about one’s ability to be present, in the here and now. Society is increasingly becoming consumed in digital media/entertainment and electronic communication.

Information (good or bad) has never been more available, so it is extremely easy to pick up my smart phone every time a question comes to mind. Also, how could I possibly keep tabs on people I would have lost contact with years ago? What else do I have to do when I have some time to kill? What is wrong with playing a game for a few minutes?

I don’t necessarily believe any of this is wrong, per se. For so many of us, however, it comes at a price.

All too often I see dependence on devices and digital content forming in the place of good old coping skills. Instead of dealing with a little boredom and applying our own minds, we turn to devices to be amused and entertained. Instead of fully experiencing an occasion, we allow texts and social media updates to invade memorable moments with friends and family. Instead of letting an emotion teach us something about what we are living, we avoid feelings with the numbing distractions of games, vines, memes, and funny cat videos, thus stunting our own learning and growth.

The problem is not that we use and enjoy technology. The problem is that we are failing to live in the moment. It is hard to experience the kind of peace and satisfaction we crave while we are distracted or avoiding what is real and present. The greatest moments of clarity, the highest levels of productivity, the best problem solving, the most intense love, these all come when we are in the here and now. The ability to engage in one thing at a time meaningfully and intentionally is a dying art. We lose some of the richness of life by not allowing our own full participation in the moment. My life is littered with regrettable moments when I was too busy trying to capture the video or picture, only to miss the great double my son hit to left field, the new personal best my other son got on pole vault, the cute smile my daughter flashed me while marching in the parade as a cheerleader, or the backflip my youngest son landed on the trampoline.

To further complicate things, everyone struggles dealing with stress and hard things from time to time. Why would we take on unpleasant things if we don’t have to? Increasingly, the tendency is to not do it, even when we must! The kicker is that the more we allow ourselves to avoid, to be distracted, to become divided, the harder it is to deal with life. As much as it is normal to not want to experience unpleasant things, it is just as necessary to learn from them when they come. If you know enough to feel like avoiding it, you are already in it, so deal with what is at hand. There is a good chance it will come up again and again, especially if we don’t allow ourselves the experience that leads to knowledge and wisdom.

The hook in all of this is how we talk to ourselves about what we do. I can justify spending hours and hours researching a meaningful topic, all under the guise of gaining knowledge. But if I have to justify it, it likely means there was something else I felt I needed to be doing. We are all capable of engaging in things that are not obviously bad or harmful, but not helpful or productive either, all the while feeling fully justified for any number of reasons. When it takes us from living the real demands of the moment, it keeps us from actually doing what needs to be done. When we don’t do what needs to be done, we know it at some level. This adds to our stress. As a result, we feel the urge to avoid and distract more. This can quickly become a vicious cycle.

Frankly, there are no simple solutions. I don’t believe in the concept of completely eliminating or avoiding electronic devices, media, or entertainment. It permeates life too completely for that to be an actual solution. It is appropriate, however, to set limits and boundaries. For example, if you are on a date, unless you are taking a picture, or an incoming call or text is clearly an emergency, don’t be on your phone. In fact, just turn it off. If you and your date both do it, you might be surprised. Besides, humans managed to survive before the advent of the digital age. How? We are social creatures by nature. Figure it out with your friends or family. Sharing a moment with someone in person is generally more fruitful than sharing a text, meme, blog post, or video.

I don’t rationally hope to lose weight when I lay around eating excessively. So why would I think I can be productive if I offer up and engage in every distraction I can find? If you need to get something done, and you have a weakness for playing games when stressed, leave your devices in your bag, in the other room, or in the car. This isn’t rocket science! Reduce the temptation technology offers and allow yourself to be effective in getting things done.

My wife and I try to set some (flexible) limits on the amount of time our kids spend on electronics. They will protest when the internet is blocked and they have “nothing” to do. If you are a parent and your kids complain of being bored, it’s good for them! Let them learn to deal with it. This is one of the best things you can do for them. Offer up healthy alternatives and be prepared to endure their various ways of sharing their misery for a while. Once they get the message that you won’t cave in, they’ll eventually find something to do. The point isn’t to prevent them from being on the devices. It is to encourage them to find ways to live in reality, to seek their own experience, and to actively cope with what they feel.

Take some time to be completely unplugged. For example, I like to fish, and I don’t get a good signal in my usual spots. This gives me a chance to intentionally step away from digital distraction, clear my mind, and boost my spirits. I will note it is good to include other people during unplugged times, but it can also be good to spend some time alone. The point is to simplify and find healthy things to do that engage you with the world beyond a screen.

Finally, intentionally engage in the things you enjoy, even if it includes devices. Just do it for the right reasons, and try to be reasonable in the process. The moment you try to banish something from your life, it can suddenly become the most desirable thing EVER. When you choose to engage the digital world, do it on purpose, not as an avoidance strategy. Enjoy it. Just don’t get lost in it.

In summary:

-Live intentionally.

-Don’t avoid what is hard.

-Learn from life.

-Do what needs to be done.

-Share experiences and memories.

-Take time to be in the here and now.

 

Dustin Tanner 08/10/16

 

It is quite natural as parents to want more for our children and to give them a better life than what we feel we had growing up. While admirable, it is also easy to lose track of the long term. One of our primary functions as parents is to prepare our children to be healthy, functional adults. So often, however, we do not place appropriate responsibility on our children. We do not make them participants in the mundane operations of life, which ironically require work.

It is not abusive, nor are we slave drivers by involving our children in daily chores, household maintenance, or other projects around the house and yard. Some may feel tempted to believe they are providing comfort and happiness for their children by not placing these responsibilities on their children. To the contrary, most children who do not learn to work face a brutal reality when they become adults and are magically expected to successfully function on their own. Ultimately the effort to provide comfort and happiness becomes a disservice in the long-term, depriving our children of the most reliable life skills they will need.

One of the greatest gifts parents can offer their children is to teach them to love hard work and to love to work hard. This is the true recipe for success. Life is hard at times, but for those who love working hard, life can always be rewarding. For those who know the value of hard work, even the hardest of times can be manageable.

Ever think you aren’t very imaginative? Ever feel like you just are not as creative as you used to be? I tend to think that those capacities don’t just die somewhere on the path between childhood and adulthood. I don’t believe that many people truly lack imagination or creative capacity. It is more about how and when we use that capacity, how readily we are able to access it, and to what purpose we use it. It is there though.

Don’t believe me? Answer a few questions and play along.

Do you ever brood about something that happened, running through what you should have or could have said or done?

Do you ever worry about things in the future, trying to figure out what you will do to deal with it, or how you will address a situation when it comes up?

Have you ever considered what you will do with all of your money when you win the Power Ball, or when Publisher’s Clearing House comes knocking at your door?

When you are watching movies do you ever think that what a character did was stupid and you would do it differently?

The questions can go on and on. Hopefully I’ve asked good enough questions that most people should answer yes to at least one of them. If you don’t think you are imaginative or creative, and you answered yes to one or more of these questions, then I am calling you out! Re-running past events and changing how they played out in your head requires your imagination. Worrying about something that has yet to happen, which in essence means it is still make-believe, requires imagination. Planning your fortune is fantasizing. Generating alternate responses to a scenario is creative. These are all hints that your creative capacity still exists!

The problem, in my opinion, is not a shortfall in imagination and creativity. It is a failure to recognize its existence, resulting in a failure to tap into and productively use that energy in the ways we most desire.  Imagine the possibilities if you were able to take the energy you spend worrying and invest it into your passions and interests!

I started a new project a few days back. I didn’t mean to start, but I did…FINALLY!!! I’ve had some ideas brewing and bouncing around in my head since I was a teen. I sat down to write an entry for my blog. (It has been way too long.) What was intended to be maybe a few pages turned out to be approaching five. What became apparent, however, is that I could probably go on and on for a very long time. So now it is not going to be a blog entry per se.

You might be curious what my project is. I can’t explain it all here. My working title is “Crippled Creativity and the Art of Healthy Deviance.” It is really about a way of thinking and being. Think of it as an approach to problem solving. I have a specific area of interest that is the basis for what I’ve started, but it can apply in so many ways that I have to figure out just how broad or narrow I really want to go.

So now I have turned to a small circle of  individuals to get their thoughts, feedback, and questions. It will all come into focus as I work through this process. I will eventually expand my circle to find more thoughts, feedback, questions, and hopefully examples/stories. If you are reading this, you might already be on my list of people to talk to. Consider yourself warned. In the meantime, I am super stoked!!!

OK. My blog had problems and I basically lost control of the site admin. I copied my old posts into a word document, nuked the site, and started all over again. I’ve got my old entries copied back in- minus pictures or other links. Now maybe I can write to my imaginary audience again…

Happiness Is A Choice

December 14, 2010

Happiness is a choice. It is curious that tough circumstances can make it a hard choice though. First understand that “happy” does not mean that everything is how we think it should be. Happiness does not require the absence of adversity, but the willingness to cope with adversity as effectively as possible, while accepting those things we cannot control. A lot of the time, however, we choose to wallow in our own misery, often making it feel worse and last longer.  If we translate this choice into different terms, it doesn’t make sense:

Happy choice- bad situation: You just broke your arm. You go to the ER, walk in, and get it taken care of. It’s not ideal, but it’ll heal. You leave with a cast and do your best to adapt for the next six weeks, otherwise you go about business as usual. You get teased and get some good laughs when you return to work/school the next day. You also get some fun signatures on your cast. It can be frustrating at times, but you manage and the time passes quickly. Before you know it the cast is taken off.

Not so happy choice- same bad situation: You just broke your arm, so out of anguish and disappointment over the tragedy that has befallen you, you throw yourself in front of a passing ambulance in the hopes of getting a ride to the ER. It works! You are rolled in on a stretcher, in a lot more pain than before, because you broke your other arm, a hip, a femur, and obtained cuts, bruises, and a serious concussion when you tried to stop that ambulance with your head. (But hey, at least the ambulance was there to help you, right?!) You spend time in the hospital, running up expenses. Eventually you go home in a wheelchair, and have a long stretch of healing and painful physical therapy to extend your hard times. It takes months to heal, but you keep paying those bills for even longer, so it still hurts in a sense. If only you hadn’t broken your arm!

Okay. So my example might seem a little out there. Maybe it isn’t the best way to explain what I’m trying to communicate. But believe me, I see this kind of a contrast on a regular basis, usually dealing with the emotional hardships and injuries people struggle with, and the attitudes people take under their given circumstances. There will  be times when things are tough. We receive an invitation to a pity party during those times. Accepting the invitation is like jumping in front of that ambulance. Eventually things will heal, but at what cost?

Just a thought.

Pinecones

July 1, 2010

Sometimes we need a good fire to clear some ground before the seeds of faith can begin to grow.

Life is full of challenges and hard times. Although it is easy to complain about those times, we are frequently blessed through them. Sometimes we need change to take place in our lives. We need to grow in ways we have not considered before. Sometimes the only way to do this, though, is to clear space for the new growth to take place. The landscape of our lives can easily become cluttered with bad habits, narrow views, adherence to traditions, complacency, and other noxious growths that might smother the growth we really need. Thus some trials we face are, by design, rather difficult and life changing. As fire sweeps over the landscape of our lives, we feel the burn.

We all have seeds of faith that we carry throughout our lives. As we plant them and care for them, we have the pleasure of seeing them come to fruition. I have decided that not all seeds of faith act the same though. Some seeds germinate and develop quickly. Other seeds may take years and years before they reach their potential. Yet other seeds, although they are present, require something more before they can even be planted. For example, there are some pinecones that sit dormant for years. They release their seeds only when there has been fire. These seeds need plenty of sunlight and space to grow properly, so the fire not only triggers the release of the seeds, but it provides the necessary preparation for them to have the greatest possible chance to grow the way they should. Some seeds of faith come from pinecones.

Hindsight is my expert witness here. I can look back and see how I really needed to grow or change at times, but was unwilling to yield up the space needed to make it possible. I can also see how some of the more difficult trials I’ve faced served to burn off those things in my life that were getting in the way. The seeds were already there, but preparation needed to take place before I could plant and grow them. Once the fire passed, the seeds were planted. Without fail, in each of the examples from my own life I can think of, things have turned out better than they were before, no matter how much I complained about the process.

With all of this said, the next time you find yourself feeling the burn, remember that there are pinecones waiting to give you something better

Treasures

July 1, 2010

I have let time pass without making mention of the biggest recent event in my life. We had our baby boy on May 25th, 2010. We named him Dallin Garrison Tanner. I must say that he is absolutely beautiful! What a blessing.

With each of my children I have been right there for their birth, oftentimes with sore thumbs from Marie squeezing them through the contractions. With each of the children I have cried when they are born. It is such a relief to finally have that baby in your arms, healthy and whole. It is overwhelming to consider the amazing privilege of creating life and the awesome responsibility you assume as a parent. I think for a brief moment I experience a lifetime of love and worry as I hold my baby for the first time. Words cannot do justice to the power of the experience.

With a new little one in my life, I go through some self-evaluation and renovation. I want to be a better dad. Even if my kids think I’m the best dad ever, I know I have tons of room to improve. I want to hold on to the strong spiritual feelings that a newborn brings into my heart. It amazes me that, even with all sorts of new responsibility, I can feel peacefully reassured. I always feel stirred up to action. Of course, there are rough nights and stressful times. The smell of the metaphorical new car can wear off. Nothing, however, can take away from the joy I feel just to be a parent. My children are my treasures. They make me a wealthy man.

Coming To Terms With Carlos

April 30, 2010

One day I came to the conclusion that my shadow carries all of my burdens, not I. In having this epiphany so many things made much more sense. I’ve frequently asked myself why I can’t just leave things behind, let go, get over, forget, etc. The thought came to me that it was that cursed shadow of mine. Perhaps he is more dark and sinister than I had previously thought. (Beware of silent, shady types that lurk about. They can’t be up to any good.) He’s dragging my burdens along, thus they always seem to linger nearby. I can imagine looking at my shadow only to see it towing an overloaded wagon full of everything that stresses me. I indulged in my little fantasy fueled blame game.

It would be great if I could actually pass all the strain of my burdens on to my shadow. (By the way, I think I’ll call my shadow Carlos. I don’t know why. He just needs a name.) Unfortunately I was viewing him as a hitchhiker in my life. He is always tagging along. He’s like a bad penny or obnoxious younger sibling. He’s worse than a stray animal. You don’t even have to feed him and he’ll keep coming back. For one brief moment at a time I can jump and break away from him, but gravity always pulls us back together. No matter how high I jump, he’s always waiting to catch me when I come back down. I can hide from him in the dark, but as soon as the lights come on, there he is. He’s always under foot.

Another epiphany struck me. Maybe I should make friends with Carlos. I can’t fight him, can’t avoid him, and we spend an awful lot of time together. Sometimes it’s hard to look past someone’s imperfections/annoyances and forgive them for how they have treated you though. Still entertaining the notion that Carlos was hauling my burdens along with him, it was easy to feel like Carlos does what he does just to spite me. Given the nature of my relationship with Carlos, I realized that I couldn’t escape my burdens, or dump them off on him. If he is attached to me, even if he were bearing my burdens, I’m still dragging them both around like an anchor. Why can’t he take them, then let go of them and move on? It would be so much easier. Useless shadow… How could I possibly be a friend with Carlos? Then the answer came to me. Carlos is already my friend.

He’s always there for me and never leaves my side, no matter how cranky, rude, obnoxious, or goofy I get. He’s seen me through the best and worst of times. Because he’s carried my burdens, he understands everything I’ve been through, all I feel, and all I hope for. He shares my burdens with me. Even when I try to ditch him he just waits patiently for my return, and takes me back without a word of complaint. When I’m wrong he never says, “I told you so.” When I get a little crazy he keeps me grounded. He’s always there to catch me when I fall. He sucks at it. He’s a shadow! But he always tries. So now Carlos and I are good buddies. He’s always welcome to tag along. As long as Carlos is there, I know I’m not alone.

P.S. I started liking my shadow when I gave him a name. Maybe you should name yours too. Also, I don’t actually talk to my shadow. You don’t need a degree in psychology to realize something isn’t quite right about that.

What is patience?

April 16, 2010

From Dictionary.com:

1. the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.

2. an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.

3. quiet, steady perseverance; even tempered care; diligence; to work with patience.

Use those definitions how you like, but with the general concept in mind, I would add a qualifier to the definitions:

It’s not patience until you feel like you’ve run out of it!

If it is easy to deal/put up with, endure, or wait for, then there really is no need for patience.

Sadly, my own definition tells me I am not a very patient person. I can’t wait to someday say I am.