“Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting.” It’s these words with which Werner Herzog ends the trailer to his documentary “Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World.”
Indeed, nothing seems farther away from a mindful life than to mindlessly bend over a glowing screen while almost walking into a street lamp. Images of smartphone-using monks thus have something ironic about it. But why? Monks too have family and friends and have to connect some way. There is no principal difference between being absorbed in the internet instead of a holy scripture or a prayer. So if we can be attentive while and after meditating, shouldn’t there also be a way to use the internet mindfully?
Maybe the idea that a mindful life and internet use are complete opposites comes less from actual Buddhist monks and more from Western mindfulness coaches and yoga teachers. To me, selling a digital detox on social media seems equally ironic as a tweeting monk, though – and equally fine.
All these are dilemmas we have to live with these days, and maybe getting lost in vague generalities instead of living life and these questions from one moment to the next is the biggest obstacle to mindfulness.
(I cleaned the first images quite a lot, going with a more cinematic edit by getting rid of some of the colors. The second image is left more natural.)