attention spans

Put down your phone and stop and smell the flowers

How I admire Andy Crouch. The Christian author recently took a vacation from the hardest thing to escape: the digital realm. For two months, he eschewed the screens that keep us permanently attached to the internet. He didn’t succumb to the fear of “missing out.” Rather, he was able to live more fully in the moment, enjoy himself, and focus on much-neglected hobbies. He even experienced a real rarity in the hyper-connected world: “just quiet and an absence of hurry to get to the next thing.”

I thought about Crouch’s sojourn away from modernity while paying visit to D.C.’s annual blooming of the cherry blossoms. Situated around the Tidal Basin, the springtime event is a tradition that goes back over a century when Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki gifted our country with prunus serrulata (Japanese cherry) trees to signify improving relations between the U.S. and Japan. Clearly, Franklin Roosevelt didn’t get the memo when he interned nearly 100,000 Japanese citizens and non-citizens following the Pearl Harbor attacks. But that’s neither here nor there.

Visiting the cherry blossoms trees is a pleasant experience if you can ignore one thing: rude, absentminded crowds. I can’t stand them. Running around without regard for rules, or basic decency, the typical tourist to the National Mall is the embodiment of modern America. Crude, self-centered, and wholly unconcerned with the well-being of everyone around them – this is the American ethos. Some call it a “me me me” pathology. I call it mass consumerism and individualism run amok.