As Henry continues his recovery from open-heart surgery, I’m continuing to reflect on the lessons I’m also learning during this healing time. One of those lessons is about where we look when we walk. As Henry was slowly navigating the halls of the ICU, gripping a very fancy walker and attached to myriad machines, one of the messages from the nurses was not to look down. They said, “Look down, fall down.”

That phrase is certainly memorable—it’s still in my head a few weeks later. However, for me, it also invites falling by focusing on what we don’t want to happen. As I was pondering it, I thought about rephrasing it and came up with this: “Look straight, stand tall.” Then, I thought about the need to do more than stand, and realized I preferred “Look straight, walk tall.”

This idea feels particularly important at a time when there’s a worldwide epidemic of looking down at our phones. I know it’s a problem in America, and I bet it’s a problem around the world. I see so many bent heads and imagine so many cricked necks. I see people focused downward instead of looking out at the world.

I’ve realized the impact for me personally, as I wake some mornings with a stiff neck after too much time looking down (sometimes at a book, not just a device!). I’ve also noticed my natural tendency to look down when I walk to make sure I don’t trip over something on the sidewalk.

However, I also realize that I can look straight ahead and watch for obstacles farther down the path. That also feels like a critically important metaphor for our lives in this modern age. We are too focused on what’s happening right here, right now, and not on the impacts of our choices on the seventh generation. When we look straight ahead, we are gaining a broader perspective.

If we look down—toward our phones, our navels, our feet—we will fall down as a society. Instead, we need to rewire our brains to look straight ahead as we walk. We need to focus on the bigger picture, the broader future, and how we can hand on a living, thriving earth community to our grandchildren’s grandchildren.

How can you practice standing and walking tall and looking straight ahead?

Share This