I’m sitting in the silence of the post-bedtime hurricane, surveying the damage of the living room and feeling the tug towards a screen, but choosing often to forgo another episode of such and such, to plug in the phone for the night and walk away.
I can’t say that those nights are particularly exciting, or even productive, but there is a peaceful stillness to the way a brain naturally shuts down, maybe after a bath or a half hour with a book or a newspaper. Or maybe just in quiet, companionable silence mingled with conversation with my husband.
I don’t want to miss my life because I’m trying to escape from it. I want to lean into the hard, boring, painful parts and find out what He has for me there. Or I want to curl into a ball and cry out to Him that I can’t handle the pain, that I need Him to fix it, to answer me.
But I don’t want to be distracted from it. That’s not good enough any more.
Entertained sometimes? Sure. I still want that. But I want to be the one to make that call.
I don’t want my default setting to be “numb, zoned, consumed, detached.” I’m too aware of the sharp pains and pleasures now of real life, and that every minute I spend disconnected from it is a gradual atrophy of the muscles I need in order to stay in the present when the going gets tough. Motherhood is hard enough when I’m not handicapping myself by training my attention span back down to that of my very sanguine 6-year-old’s. Distraction is a poor master but a good occasional servant. I don’t need to constantly employ it in the checkout line or the car. Or when I’m in pain and tempted to turn away from real life.
It’s not cut and dry, and I’m not disavowing technology or digital engagement. But there is peace and clarity in pulling back, in assessing and evaluating and making conscious and intentional decisions about how this short time on earth is spent, and what it is spent on.
Sometimes I’ve joked in the past that I’m going to have to answer to God one day for every hour spent on Facebook. And while it was said tongue in cheek, that’s actually a terrifying prospect. Not that I used social media, per se, but how much time was spent there, and doing what.
The tools are neutral. Our actions with them are not. I don’t want to get busted having buried the talent.
Not because of any servile fear of God, but because what a waste. I wonder, when I think about Mother Teresa’s now-famed schedule, would she have found time to build a platform and grow a brand and get the MCs online, even if it would have been great for their fundraising efforts?
And I do sincerely wonder this. We have few saints to pattern our behavior after in this new digital frontier. I have a hunch that she’d probably err on the side of social media minimalism, just because she had such insight into matters of the heart. She’s a good saint, I think, to petition for prayers in this landscape of human loneliness and discontent. I think she would be happy to become a sort of patroness against isolation and loneliness. I think she’d like that a lot.
Distraction is a poor master…