Poem: Smartphones in the Grass

Poem: Smartphones in the Grass

It's a strange juxtaposition of worlds, when on my walk, I look up to see my cell phone sitting on the earthen path, in the wild grass. How did it get here?

The most direct answer of how it got there is simple.

When I walk through the park, I usually allow my instincts to lead. I don't think about where I'm going, or why, I just follow the pulls of my gut, my curiosity. I happened down by the creek, enjoying the sounds of the water. I sat and listened as it trickled, gurgled, and splashed. I wanted more, so I walked upstream to a small rapid. Here, the water made a gentle roar. A consistent roar. I feel the urge to pull out my phone, to share this sight and sound online. I do so, and send it off to my small following on Instagram.

I feel satisfied with the sounds of the rapid, and so I set off back downstream, and go past where I started. I experienced the sounds of birds. Their calls abounding, some close, some off in the distance, yet none visible. Until, that is, a stunning gray mottled bird with orange on the inside of their wings, flies close overhead. I watch the bird perch in a tree, and when they speak, I recognize their call. It's a sound I've heard throughout my life here. 

All my life has been spent in this place, and this is the first time I've seen the species who mastered that particular sound. What does that say about the way I am dissociated from my ecosystem? 

I watch and observe for a long while. Doing my best to study and memorize every aspect of this neighbor I’m only now meeting. Hoping to see them well enough to recognize them if I encounter them again. Eventually the bird flies off, leaving me with a feeling of joy, connectedness, and a hint of sadness. I suddenly feel myself pull out my phone from my front left pocket. Why? 

Then the urge to drop the phone comes over me. I set it on the ground and backed away. Like a dangerous insect liberated from my pocket, yet still a threat. Its placement amongst the soil, stones, and flora is stark. A black piece of glass darkly reflecting the sky above. It seems alien, especially the way the sun hits the screen; creating polarized rainbows all across the black glassy surface. Despite its otherworldly look, it is more a part of my daily life than the ecosystem I sit within. Studying it, like a stranger, yet unlike the bird, a stranger I’ve met before. When I move my head, the rainbows pan left, and right. 

I imagine a human who has never seen a so-called "smartphone", happening upon this scene; a strange, black mirrored object, lying discarded. What is it for? Who or what made it? Imagine their surprise when the black glass lights up, brilliant colors projected forth. 

Why does this stream of consciousness matter? Maybe it doesn't, in the grandest scheme of things, yet it somehow feels relevant. The fact that a smartphone laying in the grass feels like a juxtaposition to me, feels like a statement on how we as a culture feel about our technology.

I exist within the context of our contemporary global society. If you’re reading this on your own screen, it’s likely the same or at least similar to the culture that you live within. It's a society in which I have often considered myself more machine than animal, followed by a deep disturbance at this fact. This dissociation from our animal, organic nature, is the heart of what I'm speaking to. There's a common notion that humanity is something special. Something "more than" anything that exists on Earth, yet we fail to put our finger on what exactly it is that supposedly separates us from our animalian cousins.

I agree that there is something different about humans. Yet different doesn't imply better (nor worse, for that matter). At least it shouldn't. This difference also shouldn't imply separation. There is surely something extraordinary about humanity in comparison to the rest of the members of the contemporary Earth. This is seen in our aptitude towards manipulation of the physical world. In the way we clothe our bodies. In the way we hoard and carry objects. Yet even these things do not only exist as human qualities and behaviors. 

I think the most obvious thing that seems to put distance between humanity and the rest of our more-than-human family, is the belief that we are separate. There has been a notion that there is nature and separate from that, there are humans. Similar, and descendent from animals, but not animals. We have conceived of ourselves as an otherworldly species, juxtaposed against a rough organic backdrop of plants, animals, and minerals. A bit like the smartphone in the grass.

Humans, like the smartphone, may appear otherworldly in a certain light. Seemingly cut from a different cloth than the surroundings. Yet at the foundation, both are composed of the same elements and histories as all the other members of the earth. Silicon, carbon, hydrogen, and more.

We humans are one of nature's creations, and I don't believe there is any way to truly disconnect from nature. We can only trick ourselves into looking away from the reality that we eat, drink, breathe, and bleed nature (because it is what we are). We cannot be disconnected from nature, but we can be unconscious to our connection. Since we can be unconscious, we can also be conscious. We can choose to look ourselves in the face and see the wholeness of our natural selves, and the whole Earth. We can choose to drop the act of being separate and start consciously being connected. In doing so, we might realize that all that time we felt out of place, we were actually right where we were meant to be. 

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