I’m in San Francisco at the Wisdom 2.0 conference asking how to bring wisdom and compassion to our use of technology. There are many competing views on this. It is like the ancient story about six people who are blind touching different parts of an elephant and describing what they discover. Touching the side, one says it is like a wall, the trunk is like a snake, a tusk is like a spear, leg, a tree, ear, a fan or tail, a rope. They get into a fight about the truth each has seen. A wise woman witnessing this calmly explained to them, “All of your are right. The whole elephant has all those features each of you named.”
Each of us carries part of the truth through our unique perspectives, but we need each other to see the whole picture, the whole elephant. Mindfulness offers us a way to do this, like a Super power. It suffuses what we see with clarity and compassion, revealing the panoramic nature of interrelatedness and interconnectedness, of consciousness itself. When we learn to open our consciousness, we can step beyond our fixations on what’s often a limited, partial and particular view.
Here at the conference, we see technology, too, as a Super power – social media and the digital world have the potential to hugely enhance our ability to communicate and understand different points of view. But without mindfulness and technology being wed, in the way the current online world is designed, we are at the mercy of algorithms constantly filtering what we see, restricting and narrowing our view. These ‘filter bubbles’ polarize and silo us, making it increasingly difficult to look at people and current events in all their rich, nuanced diversity – with a wider lens of unfiltered awareness.
With mindfulness we can step back and see with a broader perspective. Whether in our use of technology or in our personal and collective problems, seeing the whole elephant is wisdom, and wisdom brings compassion. Wherever you are, step back. Let yourself see the whole picture, and with an open heart and mind see the miracle, diversity, and kinship of all life.