Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Stoplight Texting

I'm growing frustrated with a new trend: stoplight texting. Many of us have done it (guilty!). We pat ourselves on the back that at least we're not texting while driving. But if you've been behind someone who doesn't notice that the light has changed, and they sit there texting or reading email or whatever as cars in the other lane are streaming by, you know the frustration.

Maybe even more than the traffic trouble, it's the spiritual statement stoplight texting is making. It points to the unwillingness just to be in the moment. "Oh, I have a few seconds...I'd better busy myself." It carries over to the dinner table, the concert hall and movie theater, and any number of day-to-day activities. But it's the stoplight sessions that seem most telling because the time-frame is so short and unpredictable...and there are all those other cars with which we are interacting.

Our capacity to experience a present moment is diminishing rapidly. If we are in a text or an email or facebook then we are not here. We are not present to the people around us. We are not present to the world immediately around us. We are not present to ourselves.

It's important to be
and to be aware of our being.

The issue isn’t that we use smartphones—they’re a wonderful piece of technology. The issue is when we use smartphones and what that might be saying about us. If we can’t go the length of a stoplight without distracting ourselves, what might we be missing?

It’s important to think, to pray, to recollect, even just to breathe. It’s important to be present to others, to ourselves, to God. It’s important to listen, to experience silence, to be present in solitude. It’s important to be and to be aware of our being.

Obviously this isn’t just about stoplight texting. I am wrestling with my own presence to the moment, my own capacity just to be. There are thoughts that I don’t want to have, words from God that I don’t want to hear, sometimes even a life that I don’t want to experience. But they’re there nonetheless…I’m there nonetheless. Perhaps better than distracting myself would be becoming myself—every bit of myself—and being aware of it all, including the world that is making me and that I am making.

Maybe you don’t want any of this. Maybe you’re content with living in your phone and being anywhere but here. And maybe doing one-tenth each of ten things at once is better than the wholeness of singularity. That’s fine. Just stay out of my lane.

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