More than once I had to check to see if I was reading something from The Onion.
“Thync, a startup based in the Bay Area town of Los Gatos, launched publicly last week with a device that sends electricity to the user’s nerves to alter their mood and mental state,” reports the decidedly more credible San Jose Mercury News. “The user has two options: become calmer or more energized. The mood-altering fix is delivered through a Bluetooth-connected headpiece, a strip attached to the neck or behind the ear to stimulate nerves that emerge directly from the brain, and a smartphone. Leave your yoga mat or Red Bull at home.”
Really? Only in Silicon Valley.
From the region once defined by the “mood-altering fix” of psychedelic drugs comes the presumably safer high-tech equivalent of a combined upper and downer.
“Are people looking for some sort of stimulant to alter their mental state? Unequivocally, yes,” says Luis Rincon, co-founder and CEO of Wearables.com, a research and review site, in the Mercury News piece. “So there absolutely is a consumer appetite for this, and that’s been the case for millenniums. What’s new is we are now entering a phase where technology can provide that stimulant.”
Here’s the problem. As proficient as this or any other “wearable tech” device might be at telling us how we’re feeling based on body temperature, chemistry or even facial expressions, it will never be able to decipher the origin, quality or veracity of the thoughts that underlie these feelings.
Imagine if the sweaty palms and racing heartbeat I experienced in the moments before asking my wife to marry me were cut short by a simple failure on my part to turn off my iPhone. I can just hear her response: “Wow, never in a million years did I think I would receive a proposal with such, hmm… equanimity.”
All kidding aside, by not exercising our innate ability to deal with life’s ups and downs without the use of such external and artificial stimulants, we could very well be undermining our natural inclination to protect ourselves from the potentially debilitating effects of what is, admittedly, a mental condition.
What’s the alternative?
More than two thousand years before the term “smartphone” entered the picture, the prophet Jeremiah hit on the idea that when it comes to keeping our lives in balance, it’s not the thoughts we supposedly transmit to and from ourselves that matter as much as the thoughts that God, the Mind of the universe, transmits to us. “I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord,” he says in the Old Testament, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”
Mary Baker Eddy takes this insight a step further, relating Jeremiah’s depiction of divine communication to our sense of mental and physical well-being. “Anatomy, when conceived of spiritually, is mental self-knowledge, and consists in the dissection of thoughts to discover their quality, quantity, and origin,” she writes inScience and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “Are thoughts divine or human? That is the important question.”
Indeed, taking a few moments throughout the day to consider the nature of our thoughts – embracing the spiritually uplifting, rejecting those laden with fear – can make a huge and immediate difference. It also frees us up to be more authentic in our interactions, our ability to maintain a sense of stability more lasting.
And to think this could all be accomplished without the use of Wi-Fi.