Ram Dass famously said “Be Here Now”. Yesterday, really for the first time, I started to wonder whether this powerful idea has become a thing of the past.
Because yesterday I attended a talk by former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, who was giving the opening keynote at the annual Games for Change conference. Mr. Gore was quite charismatic in person, although he had an alarming tendency to answer questions any and all topics by talking about climate change (alas, an inconvenient truth).
But what struck me, sitting in the fourth row of a quite nice auditorium, was the luminescent sea of white between me and the stage. The people in front of me were all surfing their iPads, the bright alabaster glow from their screens dominating the view.
Curious, I started reading over their shoulders. Most people turned out to be “multitasking” (the polite word for it). One guy was randomly surfing the web, another was checking out the next day’s talks, and the woman most directly in front of me was closing a top-secret business deal by email (all very hush-hush).
The most surreal moment came during the Q&A, when Mr. Gore said, as part of his response to a question about the usefulness of serious games in raising consciousness (this is an exact quote):
“All of us should live completely in the present moment all the time, but none of us do.”
Definitely the spirit of Ram Dass, if not the pithiness. Yet I’m not sure, between the emailing and web surfing, whether most the people in front of me even heard him say this.
Which is, um, ironic.