His Holiness the Dalai Lama walks into the room and promptly pokes fun of the 200 souls waiting eagerly to hang on his every word, “Hmmm….I thought that I was going to be the only old person here…”
Despite the weight of our collective ages, His Holiness quickly got down to the business of inspiration and addressed the representatives of UK youth organisations gathered in Manchester to learn more about his vision for young people; Stand Up and Be the Change! The Dalai Lama wants to empower young people with self confidence and teach them to trust others so they can lead meaningful lives.
As YouthNet harnesses the power of technology to connect young people and help them to develop the skills to lead productive lives (via TheSite.org & Do-it), I was interested to learn what the Dalai Lama thought about the internet and if he used it as a tool to deliver his message young people.
Three days later, I still find it hard to believe that I had the chance to ask him those questions.
His Holiness let us know that whilst he didn’t personally use Facebook and Twitter, his office most certainly did. He then went on to tell the tale of a gift he’d recently received. At first he was at a loss for recalling precisely what it was called. He struggled. He consulted his interpreter. He remembered, ‘Oh yes, I was given an iPad. It is a very pretty thing. A thing that I will take home. It will decorate my house.’
Whilst it seems that the Dalai Lama doesn’t use the internet avidly himself, he is offay with its role in society. He expounded that the value of the internet depended on the user. People who treat the internet with respect add value to their lives and others by doing so, those who misuse the internet have a disrespectful attitude to many areas of their lives. He explained that human beings connect on a mental and a sensory level. The internet helps us to connect on a mental level, and this is important – however, meaningful lives are not made up of only intellectual connections, they are fuelled by sensory connections and shared experiences.
The internet certainly makes people less isolated. Our online lives make us better informed, introduce us to people we may never meet in person and help us communicate with family and friends. But the internet can’t replace the intimacy of sharing late night cheesecake with your best mate or the power of a bear hug from your Nan. As the distinction between our online and offline lives is increasingly blurred, it’s worth bearing the Dalai Lama’s wisdom in mind. Maybe we should all let our iPads decorate the mantelpiece from time to time.