On my round trip to and from San Francisco earlier this month, I witnessed something I’ve never seen before on a flight: Nearly every passenger window in the plane was left unopened. On take-off, landing, and while we were flying over the Mississippi River, the Rocky Mountains and even the California wildfires, hardly anyone looked outside.
This seemed odd and sad to me. As a child, our vacations were taken by car and I remember how much I enjoyed sitting in the back of the station wagon, following our voyage’s progress by matching the road signs with the towns on the map I constantly held. I would try to get a sense of the differences and similarities between each state and region we passed through, observing the roadside restaurants, landscapes, cities and small towns where we stopped. When we finally did fly, I couldn’t wait to look out the window and watch the world get smaller and then bigger again, and try to figure out what I was seeing in the distant topography below.
Today, most children take a car trip while looking at seat-mounted video screens or with cell phones or i-pads a foot away from their faces. Their attention is rarely on the world through the window. And parents and other adults are doing the same. But their attention often ends in tragedy when they search or text while driving.
Here’s a familiar anecdote: The other day my neighbor nearly walked right into me as we passed on the sidewalk, her eyes fixed on her smart phone. And she wasn’t keeping a watch on her two young children walking several feet in front of her.
I love my smart phone and I may also spend too much time with it. But the fact that we’re observing the world through our apps and search engines cannot be good. We need to pay more attention to the experiences we can have in real time through our windows. It’s an important and essential way to learn. It’s better for our brains. Your thoughts?