As humans we are constantly inputting and outputting matter. Energy. Waste. Food. Information. Words. Ideas. Creations. Other humans.
In recent decades, however, our inputting and outputting quotients have exploded exponentially. We consume more information, more products, more food, more relationships, more money than ever before. We output more waste, more babies, more chemicals, more pollution, more media, more toxicity than ever before.
The world is drowning in a surplus of output and a surplus of input. Individuals are unbalanced, burnt out from consuming ever increasing amounts of social media, gadgetry, information, food, busyness, adrenaline, energy drinks and hyper-connectedness.
Meanwhile, we continue to discard iPhone 5 for iPhone 6, forego the recycling of our plastics, toss our litter out the car window.
The result of this mindless consumption and careless production of waste is a struggling society. Peoples’ relationships are more and more toxic, governed by a flurry of misinterpreted text messages rather than a single meaningful conversation. Attention spans are spattered, strained between five Apps and the flashing red light of the BlackBerry. News is analyzed, dramatized and filtered, passing through dozens of media outlets and interpretations before reaching the consumer. Children are raised in a glazed-eyed haze of mobile phone, tablet and PlayStation distractions. Waistlines expand as the synthetic ingredient lists grow longer and the amount of daily physical exertion is minimized to none.
At the same time, our output is equally as corrosive. We don’t think before we speak, email, text or WhatsApp. We click, we send, we scroll, we ‘Like’, we post. We air the most intimate and inappropriate details of our lives, slander others in forums, leave nasty comments about people online, circulate private messages to a wider group. We buy more and toss out even more. We buy food we don’t eat, we toss out garbage galore, we idle the car and crave just that little bit more.
What should not be lost in all of this is the human being’s extraordinary capacity for extraordinary output. Classical music symphonies. Exceptional works of art. Logic defying architecture. Mind-blowing novels. Inspired leadership. Selfless philanthropy and humanitarian compassion.
We also have an extraordinary capacity for mindful input. Meditation. Prayer. Reflection. Stillness. Imagination. Thoughtfulness. Reading. Watching. Love.
I believe that getting back to a place of balance between creative, respectful, mindful, responsible and brilliant input and output has to be a collective energy priority on our planet.
Peoples’ health and wellbeing depend on this rethinking and reworking of the consumption-disposal cycle. To be physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally well, people need to find the space where the consumption of outside stimuli is nurturing rather than overwhelming, invasive and destructive. In practical terms, this could mean technology-free days, a few hours’ reading, a gentle walk in the woods and a day off from work.
It also means that to stay well in all aspects of our lives, people need to be consciously aware of what they are putting out into the world. Not thanking the cashier, shoving one’s way onto the train, forwarding on a nasty email, tossing a wrapper into the gutter. These acts all contribute to a toxic output that is harmful not only to other people but to the planet as a whole.
The goal of the output I am generating through this post is not to be preachy or holier-than-thou. It is simply a reflection of my experiences in a hyper-mobile and globalized world. I find that we can quite easily be surrounded by stimuli all day long and that this constant input-output cycle often sinks its energies into my body leaving me feeling ungrounded, distracted, overwhelmed and unsettled.
I am also conscious of my constant digestion of information, sounds and distractions. How I can blast off a dozen mindless text messages, spend an hour browsing the internet or dispose of another package, sometimes all at once.
These daily experiences have brought me to a place of reflection on how so many people are suffering from this overwhelm of stuff, right down to the technological waste being shipped to slums in India, to the tween on Facebook, to the grandma on the crowded bus. This isn’t a first-world problem or a third-world problem. It is a world problem.
And the solution begins in each one of us. It begins by mindfully choosing what we take in and what we put out.
What do you choose today?