Text messages. Twitter. Facebook. iPhones, iPads, video games, tv… the list of distractions in our lives goes on and on. These aren’t bad things in and of themselves, of course—but I’ll be the first to admit that with so many opportunities for distraction at hand, I spend a lot of time checking email or catching up on the Internet that I might once have spent doing something more productive.
I can relate. I know first hand what I’m talking about. It’s the first thing I reach for in the morning or while waiting for others to arrive to a meeting. That’s reasonable, I suppose, but lately I’ve found myself reaching for it in the car at long red lights or when I’m watching television. That’s not reasonable.
We’ve lost our respect and desire for quiet, reflective thought. It’s so easy to fill our minds with information overload or turn on entertainment that there is no longer a need to ever be without it – not in the car, not in our bedrooms, not even when we’re camping or on vacation. Every moment of the day, regardless of where I am, I can check my email, watch a podcast, update Twitter or read the news. Most of the time, there is not an email, news story or status update that comes even close to affecting my life, but I read them all anyway. At the very moment when I sense that I am not listening to something, reading something or doing something, I reach out for anything that will occupy my mind and keep me from… well from what? Boredom? Silence? My own thoughts? Not being productive? I’m not sure, but I think it’s some combination of these fears.
How does this fear of boredom effect our prayer lives? Are we afraid of the quiet times in our lives of self reflection and alone time with God? Have we just come so accustomed to being entertained every waking hour of the day? I haven’t read Thoreau’s Walden in a long time, but I have been tempted to pick it back up and read again. Do we need that reset time in our lives? Give up our electronics, as B1 would call it. I go back to my time spent in Haiti; no tv, no Internet, no radio, electricity some of the time. Would it do us all good to give up these things, these distractions?