I have become the thing I abhorred. Allow me to explain. I’m the guy that believes we have gone overboard with our devices—especially our smart phones. I watch with bewildered amusement as couples or a table full of teenagers at a restaurant all with their heads down tap, tap, tapping away as they text someone. I often wonder if the person they are texting with is sitting right across from them.
I have noticed over the years that our children much prefer a text conversation with us rather than simply talking to us. I think we are not alone in this. I ponder why that is—I surmise that it has to do with avoiding intimacy in favor of “safe distance”. In a real conversation, one person speaks and another listens. There is a genuine art and grace to listening. A connection is made and an element of respect from the one listening to the one speaking.
The text is pretty antiseptic. Short bursts of sentences designed to convey as little information as possible causing the “flow of information” to take three times as long to accomplish as a simple conversation would.
And then there is the added feature that my phone is not just a communication device, but also a powerful computer that fits in my hand, a camera, a stereo system, a movie theater and a video game arcade.
So for the longest time, I’m the guy who would act so superior while complaining that we should learn to do without our devices for at least part of the day so we can actually speak face to face with people and connect at a more human level.
Until last week when my phone went missing. In that instant, I became a madman. Tari will vouch for this. As we have no land line at our house, the cellphone is our only means of communication. And as someone who belongs to a profession in which you are on call pretty much 24/7, you worry that people are trying to get to you and they can’t and then you worry that they will think you don’t care because you haven’t called back or responded to their message.
I was without a phone for a total of 19 hours and recognized how frantic I felt without it. I can’t say I liked the feeling. But now that things are “back to normal”, I have two observations to share about this experience. First, I’m just not that important to think the world is going to somehow crumble if people can’t reach me at a moment’s notice. My ego might try to convince me otherwise, but it just isn’t so.
Second, this experience only served to reinforce what I believed all along—we have a need to “unplug” ourselves and get re-connected with each other. This is a spiritual matter. Salvation will not be found in my I-Phone. Forgiveness and grace will not be found in my devices. The monks of the early church understood better than most that connecting to God requires some quiet places.
So for The Year Of Our Lord 2017, I am going to do my best and try to remember all this.