As originally seen on Culture Designers.
I woke up early to read before the day. It will be a long one. On the reading list, Sam Harris’ Waking Up. I sip my coffee and flip the page while trying to remind myself that my sense of self is in fact false. I’ve been trying to remind myself for a week now. It hasn’t worked.
This will be the only part of my day dedicated to calming down whatever stresses, real or imagined, reside in my mind. It’s November 30th in Miami, which means traffic has doubled from the visitors in town for Art Basel. There are more crowds than ever on the streets, there are deadlines encroaching and today I will be in the thick of it at the Masters of Tomorrow Summit. But for now, I am trying to dispel the illusion of the self to little avail.
My drive to the summit is restless as technology acts against me. I am distracted by the pinging of my calendar, text messages, emails and i’m trying to listen to a podcast while putting on lip gloss. Maximize every moment is what we’re taught. I should have meditated. The speakers at the summit are largely out-of-towners coming to bring their perspectives to our burgeoning metropolis.
At Masters of Tomorrow the crowds are bustling in true Basel fashion. Tech guys wearing sharp suits with bright shoes and women wearing boho chic attire. This is the Miami I know. The first speaking event on my agenda chosen specifically for its lack of tech: Designing for Mindfulness. I’m soon to have my bubble popped.
Ariel Garten steps up and the crowd cheers. She begins to talk about technology. Damnit. Garten has a soft voice that carries through the space as she talks about the intersection between technology and art.
Technology & Art are on a spectrum
While we must understand the nuts and bolts, she begins. We can never forget what makes things beautiful and delightful, things that intuitively elevate the human spirit. It’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to know more about science.
Garten continues to divulge that art and science are not a choice to be made. She rejects notions society places over us as children, like if you show promise for art, you will inevitably falter at science. The idea that this collective power of suggestion reinforces archaic beliefs is inherent in her tone.
My mind traces back to my childhood. I was great at painting and sketching, a talent that drove the assumption math would not be my forte. I wonder now how much of my disdain for numbers and logic come from this central idea. In later school years, I would continuously test better in math and be perplexed every time the scores came back. This has to be a mistake. I’m a right brainer. The idea had taken root and has since only firmed itself. Despite empirical evidence that I can navigate both worlds, I still refuse to do the tip on a receipt.
We can only move forward by understanding our own mind
Garten has designed MUSE, a machine that hooks up to your head and measures your brain activity in an effort to facilitate meditation. The futuristic headband, a nod to her fashion roots, converts your brain activity into the sound of the wind. If you’re thinking too much, the winds will blow in your headset signaling you to try and focus more.
We must reflect with the self and know what’s going on inside, she says to the audience but I feel like she’s looking at me. When we understand ourselves we can improve our own mind and move our life forward.
I nod my head. I’ve drank the Kool-Aid. Curiosity exists because it is something we were put here to experience. We have questions because we must search for the answers. It doesn’t mean we will ever find them, that’s relative. But it’s in our unique search that the most beautiful parts of humanity are.
Make it a point to tune into NR –– Natural Reality
As Garten exited the stage, our Masters of Tomorrow host joins us again. I wasn’t ready to let go of all the concepts from her talk, until he asks us a poignant question: Please imagine yourself in a lake.
I quietly put my phone down and close my eyes. I’ve never swam in a lake, mostly out of fear, but there I am. I imagine the water murky, which is what turns me off about lakes, and I see myself paddling.
He asks again, how did you see yourself? I’ll bet you saw a picture of yourself like if you were seeing yourself from the outside. Although we experience from our own perspective and we should have seen the lake from our own eyes, not a full length image of ourselves swimming, we did.
Oh my God.
We are producers in our own mind, he clasps his hands. We are not experiencing. We’re designing. Tune into NR folks, natural reality.
How many memories have been an image projected onto the walls of the mind? How much time have we been a producer, planning our lives versus living them? We are not used to owning our power. We are so far removed from our own experience that it actually affects the way our memories are formed.
Can our sense of self be saved? The summit’s speakers seems to suggest yes, and with the help of an open mind and the tools available at our disposal.
Technology is not something to be feared. This is the idea that emerged. Like art, it rests on the same broad spectrum of human experience. It can drive us further from ourselves or bring us closer to our own physiology than we’ve ever been before.