What did the horse say?
March 3, 2015 / By Jason at Parallax
Imagine a slender man addressing an audience of hundreds of Silicon Valley employees on the topic of new technologies of the 21st century.
He has gentle, intelligent eyes and a very unassuming appearance. His work has touched the lives of millions of people around the world and he has indelibly altered how we interact with each other and ourselves.
No, I’m not talking about Steve Jobs— I’m talking about none other than our favorite Zen Master, Thich Nhat Hanh!
A few years ago, Thay talked to the folks at Google about whether technology and being your best self are compatible.
“There is a Zen story about a person sitting on a horse, galloping very quickly. At a crossroads, a friend of his shouts, ‘Where are you going?’ The man says, ‘I don’t know, ask the horse!’
This is our situation. The horse is technology. It carries us and we cannot control it. So we have to begin with intention, asking ourselves, what do we want? The unofficial slogan of Google is ‘Don’t be evil.’ Can you make a lot of money without being evil?
The horse is supposed to carry us to a good destination, as is technology. But, so far, technology has mostly helped us to run away from ourselves at the cost of our own life and happiness, and the happiness of our beloved ones and the beauty of Mother Earth.
So you cannot say that we are not evil, because while realizing your dream of being wealthy, you sacrifice your life, you sacrifice the happiness of your beloved ones, and you cause damage to Mother Earth. So it’s not so easy not to be evil.
But if technology can help you to go home to yourself and take care of your anger, take care of your despair, take care of your loneliness, if technology helps you to create joyful feelings, happy feelings for yourself and for your beloved ones, it’s going in a good way and you can make good use of technology.”
— Adapted from “The Horse is Technology” by Thich Nhat Hanh. First appeared in The Mindfulness Bell, Summer 2014. Used with permission from the Unified Buddhist Church.
Thay’s talk at Google must have been quite the sight: an octogenarian monk who has for almost every second of his life lived mindfully and has never even thought about taking a selfie offered Google product development advice.
Tech writer Jon Mitchell has a similar view of technology. His just released book In Real Life: Searching for Connection in High-Tech Times is about what we can do right now to improve our relationship with technology.
Mitchell writes that being either pro- or anti-technology is a false duality. He says that being pro- or anti-technology is like being pro- or anti-air:
“It doesn’t matter how we feel about technology; it’s there, and it will always be there. Maybe the notions of ‘pro-technology’ and ‘anti-technology’ exist because we don’t have a clear understanding of what technology is…
Regardless of your opinion about it or how you ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼define it, chances are you’re using technology in some way every day, so it might be beneficial to have an intentional relationship with it and know more about what you’re doing.”
And knowing what you’re doing —with your phone, social media, your own mind— is part of the practice of mindfulness.
Get the book for 25% off using the code HORSE until this Saturday. We’re still offering free shipping in the US for orders of $25 or more.