Once upon a time, around ten to twenty years ago, people believed that it was essential to be in the moment. People actually thought that the closer your lived in the present the more in touch with your senses you were. They truly believed that life was fleeting and therefore to experience life at it’s fullest it was necessary to experience all the sensory stimuli taking place around you.
That quaint notion today is ancient history. Being in the moment is a thing of our past, shelved as impractical and self-defeating. Today the moment is lost to the transformational vagaries of the Blackberry, the IPod and the ubiquitous cell phone. We are typing, talking and otherwise distracted as we proceed with our daily lives. We can neither drink a cup of coffee, nor walk down the street without an electronic device diluting the ambience.
We have stopped paying attention to our surroundings. When you stop paying attention to your surroundings, then you stop paying attention to all the things great and small that make up our lives. We are denying ourselves experience. We no longer fail to live in the moment; arguably it is difficult for most of us to even define what really constitutes that moment and how it affects our lives.
So if this is the case, then how do we define a fulfilling experience? Can we really say we are immersed in our environment if we are text messaging or talking to someone on our cell phone? Not really. Certainly there are important calls and business calls, but aren’t most calls a result of our inability to deal with our solitude?
How did this happen? Is it our love and infatuation with our relatively new electronic devices that drove us to a new dimension of consciousness? Perhaps there is more to it. It may be the pressures of the modern world have built up to unmanageable proportions. It is perhaps the anxiety of silence or the fear of spontaneity that has us clinging to our cell phones. Like ostriches we put our heads in the sand by turning to the predictable security of a familiar voice or text on a screen.
Or maybe there are better reasons than risk aversion. The world is not only a scary place; it also breeds banality and repetition. The last thing most of us need is more banality and repetition, so we dive into our electronics in order to avoid it. But in avoiding the downside of life in the present, we can also deny the magic that happens through observation and interaction. When we turn our backs on fate and serendipity, we exchange the chance of something wonderful happening for a dull and predictable routine. We leave it to the movies to cultivate our fantasies. We believe we will never meet our lover on the street, so why bother looking. It is easier to join an Internet forum or online dating service and call them up by category. It is dull, but it is easy. Why look up, when it is easier to look way?
To assess quality and value means you have to pay attention. You have to study things. But, obviously, when we are busy with your electronic distractions we don’t really pay attention. It is like the people we all know who travel to some exotic locale rich with architectural and cultural wonders, and the best they can do is tell you about the food.
Instead of really understanding the difference between quality and junk, we rely upon marketing and branding. It is through the purchase of labels and not necessary quality that we express our desire for the better things in life. We don’t make choices on what we buy, wear, eat or drive, based on artisan skills and the quality of design and engineering as much as a perceived status and branding. We leave it up to others to tell us what is good or right for us, and then we wonder why we feel frustrated and short changed. Sadly, we often choose our lovers and enter into relationships on the same basis.
Despite our best efforts to distract ourselves from living in the present, we can’t avoid actual human contact altogether. We still acknowledge underlying chemistry is at least part of the cause of attraction to others. We speak of pheromones and vibes and our *** response to certain intangibles. Yet in spite of our instincts we eschew diversity and variety in favor of niche categories. We overlook the fine distinctions that make someone unique. We seek instead the behavior that makes them the same, that makes them easy to define through generic slogans and simple jargon. It makes us comfortable when we can pigeonhole the world and classify our lovers by assigning them to rudimentary categories.
With this as the modern base line as to how we judge things, you have to wonder if you really know the people you are thinking of dating. Of course you know them according to niche and preconception. They told you stuff about themselves, either through email or over the phone, perhaps over coffee or in a speed dating session. They told you about their tastes in food, clothes, fashion and what they do for a living. But do you really know them? Judging by the way we allow ourselves to be distracted from the moment, you probably don’t know them as well as you think.
Reason would stand if you are not really paying attention, then you are missing the tell tale signs of behavior. Tell tale signs can go either way. They can direct you to opportunity or reveal hidden dangers. If it’s opportunity, you miss out. If it’s danger, then you had better look out.
This may be why singles are using background checks to investigate the history of their potential lover. Considering the compressed time for meeting and evaluating, this seems like the smart thing to do. Otherwise, how do you know who you are really meeting on line? Are they really who they say they are? If you are a single parent and dating online or through speed dating services or agencies, you had better be sure Mr. Wonderful doesn’t prefer your children over you.
So, at the very least, protect yourself from your own inattention. Since you really haven’t been paying attention, when you meet someone you find interesting, before you start dating, order a background check. It’s always nice to know whether you are about to date Jumping Jack Flash or Jack the Ripper. A background check won’t tell you everything, but it will help you decide if they really are who they say they are. Hey, just think of it as branding.
Gordon Basichis is the author of the best selling Beautiful Bad Girl, the Vicki Morgan Story, a non-fiction novel that helped define exotic sexuality in the late twentieth century. He is also the author of The Constant Travellers, a Fantasy Western, telling the epic story of a family migrating from the East to West Coast in the late 19th century. The first chapter of Basichis’ new book Chinese Takeout, a Roman A'Clef about Chinese Espionage networks operating in the United States, is featured in a forthcoming anthology, Sleeping with Snakes, Notes from the Los Angeles Underbelly. A professional marketing executive, Basichis is also co-founder of Corra, which as the Corra Group specializes in pre-employment and online dating background checks, as well as corporate research and investigation.