Digital Serenity Explained

It’s that time of year once again. Ads for holiday shoppers, our friends’ post-Thanksgiving photos, and the final exam schedule all fight for our attention. It’s the annual End-of-Semester Dash. It’s fun. It’s intense. And sometimes it’s just-too-much. You just want to reach out … grab your PHONE and turn on some peace and quiet.

Wait. Can your phone really be the shelter in the storm? It’s an interesting question that John Tresch, a historian of science at the University of Pennsylvania, considers in his blog post, “Buddhify Your Android” (Tricycle blog, 4 Dec 2015). Delving into meditation apps for your mobile, and the sometimes tense relationship between ancient meditation practices, and the modern permutations that are being created for acceptance into a high-tech, post-modern, digitally-based, consumer society, Tresch writes, “Humans have always made and remade themselves through technology … It’s no surprise that today’s asceticisms follow the contours of today’s defining technologies.” Naturally, he finds irony in “digital devices that aim to release us from the suffering caused by excessive dependence on digital devices,” but he also highlights a potential risk, namely, that meditation-by-app offers “the promise of liberation at the price of a new attachment.”