This will be incomprehensible to some of the younger generation.
There was a time when a person could live a life without carrying a phone. There was a time when you could set out to explore the back–end streets of a city with only your house key tied around your neck. There was a time when parents would have no idea where their children were, no idea what they were up to and very little fear for their safety.
I remember fishing with my father when I was very young. My father, who I rarely spent time with, was sucking testosterone like a breath mint that morning. He spat on the grass and swore. He may even have grown chest hair before my very eyes. I was twelve and much more intrigued by a discarded Razzle I had seen in a bush as we got out of the car.
There’s not much that happens in the early hours of the morning. There’s a stillness to it which momentarily freezes you. We got to the river early to avoid the ranger. In hushed whispers we walked side by side, fishing rods in hand, parallel to the lazy slip-slopping gurgle of the water by our feet. The morning mist swirled around us like a gigantic, enveloping spider web. It felt like the world had died and we were walking over a stone–cold carcass.
Dad swore magnificently, spat and bent to rest on one knee. He stared over the river looking like he knew what he was looking at. I scoffed at him and he grunted at me before moving further down the river bank away from me. I looked to what he’d been staring at.
A kingfisher. A dazzling, rainbow of a bird perched quite happily on a log on the other side of the river. They are a fizzing, zipping, beautiful creature. Blink and you would miss one. I took a step closer and it vanished. It disappeared before my very eyes. I looked down the bank at my father who had started unpacking our fishing tackle. He’d walked a fair distance and he waved, silently beckoning for me to go towards him. Smiling.
I sucked in the fresh, morning air and looked to the horizon. The sun had started to dress for the morning. A purple–tinged bank of clouds wrapped itself around a spinning arch of reds and oranges. By the river bank I could hear the warm rustle of animals. The soothing plip-plop of fish breaking the surface of the water. The lazy buzz of insects warmed by the sun only added to the symphony of the morning. I was witness to a sensory experience that even today stirs not only memories of watching the world wake up but also how close I felt to my father that day.
Now let’s think about how that day would have been if we both had smartphones. I would have tweeted about it. I would have texted someone. I would have felt my phone roll around in my pocket. My father would have had his phone holstered to his belt. I would have checked my phone for messages as I waited for a fish to bite instead of talking to my father. I would have tried to take a picture of the kingfisher rather than witnessing it with my own eyes. In fact I would have strolled right past it more interested in tweeting than anything else.
Is there a Fishing App? What are the reviews for this area? Where can I buy a better fly? Are there any local businesses in the area that stock that item? “Hey everyone I am FISHING! LOL!”
Technology would have made those memories very different.
I watch parents in the park playing with their children while talking on their phones. I see no engagement with the child. Only a complete disengagement from that very moment in which tiny shards of relationships are born and nurtured. It saddens me and I remember that when my father and I strode out that day, more intent on catching memories than fish, we were alone. No one knew we were there. We were adventurers. We had the fizz of excitement in our bellies. We were swallowed by the world. Neither of us was carrying these portable tracking devices. We were both enraptured by each moment of our connection with a simpler world. The real world. The world that doesn’t endlessly trying to sell us something. The world that doesn’t track and report your every movement. The world that isn’t ruled by anything except nature itself.