- - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The challenge: Technology addiction

The couple and their three children were ushered to a table in the outdoor restaurant overlooking the caldera on the Greek island of Santorini. The glow of the full moon reflected off the ocean and the lights of ancient homes nestled on the mountainside twinkled like the stars above.

Certainly this would be a memorable evening for this family, who obviously had gone to great expense to experience the enchanted island.

Then it happened. Shortly after being seated, each family member instinctively pulled out an electronic gadget. The youngest son quickly became enraptured in a hand-held game; the two older children were immersed on their iPhones; even mom and dad’s eyes glazed over as they stared at their iPads.

They continued this way all evening, barely setting down their gadgets to eat. There was no notice of the moon or the sea or the magic around them. There was no conversation other than a passing phrase, no interaction beyond someone occasional elbowing whoever was beside them and pointing at a screen.

It was a night lost forever to the addiction of technology.

Every few minutes countless millions of us allow our thoughts to be interrupted by texts, updates and notifications. There seems to be a constant compulsion to refresh, to count “likes” — a need to be noticed, a craving for instant gratification.

Is it our self-medicated “cure” for boredom or an expression of our obsession with ourselves? The endless consumption of words and images never curbs our appetites for more data at faster speeds, more pictures, more news, more ways to connect.

The quiet of life is shattered. The opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the present and the company of those in our presence gone.

Our life becomes a paradox: We are always available but never fully present. We don’t want to miss out on what’s happening elsewhere, so we stop paying attention to what’s going on right in front of us. We even forget how to be alone with ourselves.

It isn’t technology’s fault. It isn’t the culture’s fault. It’s our condition. It’s this sin condition that causes us to try to heal ourselves, satisfy ourselves, save ourselves. We try to fill our hearts by busying our minds, but all the activity leaves us empty, hungry, addicted.

The stillness, the silence our souls need is replaced with noise and often meaningless tweets, texts, posts and flashing images. Our addiction is damaging our minds, our relationships, our very souls.

King Solomon put it bluntly: “Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool” (Ecclesiastes 5:3).

We hardly hear God in our loud, busy world because His voice is often a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12). But He is speaking, reaching out to us all the time, ready to meet with us if we simply slow down and start listening.

The hope: Rest in spiritual solitude

For most people, to “be alone” requires making an effort. For extroverts like us, it takes a little more discipline. And there is a big difference between merely being alone and practicing the art of spiritual solitude.

Spiritual solitude means getting alone and quieting our minds in order to listen for God’s gentle whisper.

Henri J.M. Nouwen described our need so well in his book, “Out of Solitude”: “Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community form the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subjects of our most personal attention. Let us therefore look somewhat closer, first at our life in action, and at our life in solitude.”

It’s tempting to think that all we need to do is take a timeout. Actually, that’s a wonderful place to start. The discomfort we feel when we take a timeout from technology and busyness reveals how dependent we are on our distractions. And when we get past the discomfort, it’s freeing, refreshing and motivating.

But if solitude is something we turn to only when we are overwhelmed, then we miss out on the all the gifts that God promises to those who make it a way of life.

At the other extreme, it’s sometimes tempting to quit technology altogether. But if we want to live effectively in our modern world, if we want to connect to people in the manner in which they wish to connect and by all possible means save some (1 Corinthians 9:22), then it would be foolish to estrange ourselves from our technologically connected world for too long.

In Jesus’ three years of public ministry, he was surrounded by people, teaching large crowds and spending time with his closest friends. But he also “often withdrew to the wilderness” (Luke 5:16). He knew God intimately because he believed in and lived according to God’s word: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength” (Isaiah 30:15).

Somewhere, there is a balance between being available to the world and being in solitude. When we find that balance, we will discover that we are available to God at all times. It certainly takes practice, but over time, spiritual solitude can become second nature.

At first, you may have to retreat far away from the distractions that call your name. But as you learn to deny yourself those distractions, it becomes easier to retreat into a quiet place of prayer in your heart and mind, no matter what is going on around you.

A poem by John Oxenham titled “Make in My Heart a Quiet Place” is a wonderful prayer for any who desire to learn the discipline of spiritual solitude.

‘Mid all the traffic of the ways,

Turmoils without, within,

Make in my heart a quiet place,

And come and dwell therein;

A little shrine of quietness,

All sacred to Thyself,

Where Thou shalt all my soul possess,

And I may find myself;

A little shelter from life’s stress,

Where I may lay me prone,

And bare my soul in loneliness,

And know as I am known;

A little place of mystic grace,

Of self and sin swept bare,

Where I may look upon Thy face,

And talk with Thee in prayer. Amen.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide