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Conversational Tarot — Four of Swords

August 21, 2014

A while back, I described a way to initiate thought-provoking conversations using the messages of the cards. (See: A great way to facilitate this process is to use my Pithy Tarot app, which provides a quick little meaning along with a card. Today I did this and got the following card and meaning.

Four of Swords -- Pithy TarotFour of Swords
Pithy meaning: Get away from the distractions of everyday life now and then. That’s where you’ll find peace and discover true understanding.

The question I came up with is this:

We are constantly tethered to our cell phones or other electronic / internet devices. In fact, an image of a group of people stranding around with their attention fixed on their cell phones instead of being engaged in conversation with one another has become a cliché.
What is this doing to us as individuals, and what is it doing to our society and culture as a whole?
There may be both good and bad consequences, so how can we counteract or at least mitigate the bad ones? Also, what are some things we can do to “untether” ourselves from our electronic umbilical cord?

Some thoughts:

One interesting point that came up in the discussion I had about this is that the constant pinging we allow ourselves to be distracted by with our gizmos has the opposite effect of meditation. Meditation has the effect of making us more focused, mindful, and centered; allowing our cell phones (for example) to constantly interrupt us makes us less focused, mindful, and centered. Perhaps just the practice of ignoring those pings can bring us a more peaceful state of mind?

So here’s a suggestion.  You know how you turn off your cell phone (or at least, you turn off the ringer) when you are in a theater?  How about extending that courtesy to your friends. Whenever you’re interacting with friends, turn off the ringer — let calls go to voice mail and get your text messages later.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. (And yes, I do see the irony of asking about this on an Internet based forum, so please try to answer this when you are not in the midst of a social setting.)

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  1. Wil permalink

    I suppose one of the things we can do is challenge ourselves to make 10% of our time on things like Facebook discussions intended to set up face to face interactions. Just meet for coffee, dinner, bowling, something, so that our internet usage doesn’t turn us into luxury cave dwellers.

    • Yes, things like FB can either facilitate real-time social interactions or they can serve as a substitute for them. The problem is not really the tool, it’s the use of it. I think it’s important to keep that in mind.

  2. Love this! “Ignore the ping” — sounds like a good mantra!

    • Yes, one bit of advice here may be to turn off your cell phone (or at least silence it) when in a social setting. We are always reminded to do that in a theater, and I think our friends deserve that sort of consideration too.

  3. I have been trying to limit my Facebook checking to when I’m on the computer which is less than the time I have my phone with me. I forget at least a couple of times a day. But your remark James about the opposite of meditation – that hits home. I’m going to work at it harder – just on the laptop checking in with Facebook.

    • That insight — that our pinging gizmos have had the effect of being the opposite of meditation — came to me in a flash during the discussion that this card initiated. It certainly puts this all into sharp focus, doesn’t it! Just silencing your cell (and perhaps your computer too) whenever you aren’t actively allowing such interaction can be a great first step.

  4. I feel your Pithy explanation of the 4 of swords answers your question very well. I’m not sure that all the technology we have these days is really good for us, socially. So many pros and cons to social media. I do feel it’s important to unplug for some duration of time every day. If you are out with someone socially respect your time together. Put the phone away!!

    • Yes, absolutely: there are pros and cons. It’s how we use the technology that really matters.
      And as I noted above:
      “We are always reminded to do that in a theater, and I think our friends deserve that sort of consideration too.”

  5. Fred permalink

    This is a very amusing topic, because now Tech Experts are advocating taking a Tech Holiday once a week. It’s a day to put the tech down, and reconnect with real people in the real world. Read a physical book, cook a nice meal, play a board game with the family or friends.

    I wholeheartedly support this; even though I just bought the boyfriend his own iPad. He’s a work in progress.

  6. My work is nearly 95% internet-based currently, so this is very interesting! I have to keep connected in ordered to do my work …however, I have recently been changing the settings, on my smart phone, so when I am not working, and “out”, in social settings, I do not get the constant “alerts”…. Trying to take the “advice” of The Four of Swords — I think we all should!

    I have noticed this too, observing folks out at clubs, social settings – they are constantly on their smart phones, on FB, another social media site or an App …OR, they are talking to you but, “bleep, bleep”, and they are off checking the latest “alert”….

    I think this has helped many folks, who would otherwise NOT be social – shut-ins, folks with limited social skills, etc., but I agree it’s detrimental to the rest of us.

    As someone who “love’s his toys”, I admit that I wanted every “bell & whistle” to be operating on my smart phone, laptop, etc. — but after a while, I was noticing my own distraction, lack of engagement and focus (as James says, the opposite of meditation, mindfulness …not to mention respect for those around you) — so I have taken the “advice” of the Four of Swords, and cut back a lot…

    Also, I think the Four of Swords asks us to go a step further, and perhaps plan e-Free Days! …and, as suggested in an earlier comment, shut off our phone & devices, in social situations, all together.

    • Yes, when you are working as you do, you have to be connected, but when not at work, try to disconnect from the electronic umbilical cord. I think this is what the 4/S implies here: appropriate downtime.
      And yes, taking an “e-Free day” now and then is a great idea. I think it’s hard to do that for many because the e-connection has become such a habit, or even an addiction.

  7. Fortunately, I live in such a rural setting, beyond cell phones, that I am not tethered to electronics, other than when I wish. Yet, I really appreciate being able to access apps, such as your, when I am taking a moment to explore. I turn on the wifi for a couple of hours and have fun.

    Thanks for providing stimulating ideas and meaningful knowledge, James. I always appreciate what you share.

    In Spirit,

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