15. Be a PIG Person

This essay is part of my 42 Deep Thoughts project.

Like a slogan, intentions can be a great way to embed depth and meaning in a few simple words. Unlike a slogan, the audience of an intention is a single individual, so that meaning isn’t at risk of getting lost.

I wrote previously about setting an intention. The intention that carried me out of a rough time was “I strive to excel at everything I do.”

While I do come back to that intention regularly, once I was in a good place I wanted to work on other areas of my life. So I decided to focus on being a PIG person.

Present, Intentional, and Genuine.

As with a slogan, if it’s humorous, or memorable, you’re more likely to remember to think about it. In this case I embraced humor.

My mind wanders. I tend to get distracted by ideas that pop into my head. I meditate to help control that, but I’m no master of the practice.

Especially with today’s technology vying for our attention, I frequently find myself with my attention span waning. Even if I want to be present, it’s so easy to get distracted.

This isn’t great if you’re trying to focus on your work, or a book. It’s outright disrespectful if you’re talking with people, on a call, or in person.

In Martin Buber’s I and Thou, Buber describes two ways of interacting with the world around us. The I—Thou relationship, and the I—It interaction.

The primary word I–Thou can be spoken only with the whole being. Concentration and fusion into the whole being can never take place through my agency, nor can it ever take place without me. I become through my relation to the Thou; as I become I, I say Thou. All real living is meeting.

I and Thou, Martin Buber

He explains that I—Thou is the essence of relationship. In order to truly be in an I—Thou relationship you have to be fully present. I—It is the essence of experience, which is fine in some cases, but it’s an objectification — not something you want to do when approaching another person.

Our technology pushes us towards I—It interactions. It’s nearly impossible to be present with someone who is abstracted behind screens and forced into the structure of their profile and status updates.

Another thinker who deeply influenced me is Jaron Lanier. In his book You Are Not A Gadget he describes the invention of the MIDI file.

He describes how its inventor didn’t intend for MIDI to be the ubiquitous format for musical notation, only that it served their need at the moment. Once it was being used, the format got locked in and was hard to change. The format didn’t, nor was it intended to, properly define and encompass the idea of a musical note.

Before MIDI, a musical note was a bottomless idea that transcended absolute definition. It was a way for a musician to think, or a way to teach and document music…
After MIDI, a musical note was no longer just an idea, but a rigid, mandatory structure you couldn’t avoid in the aspects of life that had gone digital.

You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier

We cannot truly be defined by the online presentation of ourselves. Unfortunately often that’s all other people see of us. In fact, more and more of our interpersonal interactions, even with our friends, happens online.

The feedback loops built into most online social tools optimize for engagement, even if it’s negative engagement.

Not unlike road-rage, online-rage is real. We don’t see the people on the other side of the digital barrier, and they don’t see us. I know I’m guilty of unleashing my inner demon in an online-rage tirade.

Being present, intentional, and genuine is the antidote to our current online plague.

So lately I’ve been seeking out ways to be Present, Intentional, and Genuine — a PIG person. Opportunities where I can exist in I—Thou. It doesn’t exist often, and the spell is often broken with a single notification vying for my attention.