Courtesy: Michael Family Archives
Picture taken of George Michael circa early 1950s at his beloved Reno Cafe, Newtown where he spent close to half a century.
But actually, when I really think about it, I have all that I need, quality time spent with him, not footage of him. I have about 25 photographs that are priceless to my family, like this one above. I have this very photograph on my kitchen wall. I'd like to remember him just like this. Here he is circa early 1950s, in 341 King St, Newtown. The old Holdens can be seen in the reflection of the mirror. This photo encapsulates my father-in-law- what more would I need? The mystery of his person lives on free of any human limitations.
Storytelling is an art. It is calculated, not full of details that often mean very little. Every part of our life does not have to be action-jammed. It just has to be "our" life, special for what it is.
Nowadays, we are placing undue pressure on our younger generation by the apps we are building. My students tell me that "status updates" need to always be exciting... that you need to be seen always doing something, and to look cool, hip and great in photos or video... inventions like Digital Glass could only exacerbate this expectation and will add even more moment-to-moment pressure on people.
But the reality is that the simple question "what are you doing now?" does not have to be answered every 2 minutes... life happens moment by moment of course, but our milestones take in effect decades to accomplish, even a lifetime in some contexts. We might be getting better at quantifying the banalities of life- but what about qualifying life?
When MG Michael, Roba Abbas and I ran a GPS data logger experiment in 2008, we soon realised that our participants were more preoccupied with increasing their waypoint count and to be documenting that they had done more than other participants, than by the quality of the activity(ies) they were engaged in. One participant would say: "I've done 10,000+ waypoints today", and another would say "but I've only done 400". One of the biggest learnings for me personally came, when the participant who had done an average of 400 waypoints per day documented that he had a "boring life" in his daily diary and that all he did was study. On the one-hand I agreed with him that maybe, it would be good to get more fresh air, but on the other hand I told him that if he had done 10,000+ waypoints that would leave very little time for study. Moving around a lot geographically, and being busy, between work, home, and university, and social events does not always necessarily equate to quality of life, just quantity. You could do 10,000+ waypoints and be miserable for being so busy, and do 400 waypoints and think you are king of the castle.
My father-in-law slept, worked, and lived in his beloved Reno Cafe and was one of the most content people I've ever met. His waypoint count on most days would have been condensed into a 30 by 10 metre shop front and not been more than 400 waypoints most certainly... What does it mean then to be content in today's terms?
This brings me to my next point... how technology is encroaching the sacred space of meditation. Yes, we can learn from reflecting on video we take of ourselves, active in an event. But actually, what we really need is some time to reflect alone, in quiet and in secret. We come to this realisation repeatedly when we are suffering (for example, during relationship issues, in sickness, or in the passing of a loved one). In fact, MG has often commented to me since the passing of his father, that although he was certainly grateful for the many people that surrounded him and his mother during those first difficult days, he longed for a solitude, to grieve alone.
Social media, smart phone, the cloud and the rest, have meant that we are invariably connected with technology, and yet not connected with oneself, our spiritual side. Certainly I have found, from my personal experience, the more I have become engaged in the wireless Internet in general, the less time I have had to meditate, or read texts of an inspiring nature. Or perhaps my motivation has dwindled as a result of the instantaneous nature of all these mediums and I have not forced myself to retract.
Interruptions via mobile phone have meant time away from loved ones (even though I consider myself rigid with its use). "Web sites", even like this one, have meant less hours sleep, despite that it is "my work..." The list goes on. I am not talking about work-life balance but something deeper about what we have become, questions of ontology and metaphysics, and pondering on what we might become with those things which are being predicted, if we do not acknowledge some of the probable drawbacks of new technologies...
And now back to my father-in-law... a few more thoughts in closing. He was always one for innovation.
In Cyprus the cafe (kafenio) his father owned had the first wireless radio in the town, and men would gather from Peyia to listen to this great and awesome machine. In Sydney, dad bought one of the first televisions available in Newtown...