Thursday, September 26, 2013

Conan, Cell Phones, and Being Present

ht to bizarro comics
So, the iOS7 thing happened. I still haven't clicked the "software update" link on my iPhone, but apparently doing so is a very big deal. It's also a big deal for students in my ministry when they either get their first cell phone or get their first touch-screen phone. The iPhone vs. Android vs. Blackberry debate rages on (though, really, who's actually on Team Blackberry any more?)

Two comedic guests on Conan O'Brien recently shared about the influence of cell phones in our culture and our human struggle with being present. I think they're on to something here. Watch below and tell me what you think.

Louis C.K. (note of caution: Louis uses some coarse language)


Money quote: "You need to build an ability to just be yourself and not be doing something."

Tig Notaro


Money quote:
Friend: "What are you doing?"
Tig: "Nuthin'."
F: "Did you get those pictures I just sent you?"
T: "Yeah, I was just telling this guy about...."
Conan: "...Conan."
T: "You don't, you don't know her."

Both capture the essence of the issue: as human beings in a technology-filled world, we struggle with being fully present. The art of the face-to-face conversation, the discipline of being alone, the practice of being quiet and still: we don't do these very well. Yet the spiritual disciplines of silence, solitude, and prayer require a posture of being open and present, removing the distractions of the vibrating iPhone or checking for a new notification.

I'm certainly not perfect in this arena. I'll do my best to maintain eye contact in a conversation, distracted by the vibration of incoming text messages and notifications in my jeans' pocket. I want to remain present with others, but I fear I'll end up like the humans in WALL-E, staring at screens and totally missing the people around me. I'm not a luddite by any means, but I do wonder if there's a subtle idol-worship at work here.

Louis C.K. gets to my big concern here: I want my kids to know how to be present with others. I want my children to know how to look people in the eye and listen to them tell a story without having to get fidgety and begin subconsciously reaching for their phone. I want them to be able to walk around in the world without having to keep an ear bud planted in one or both ears at all times. I want them to remember me and Katie as parents who played and laughed and jumped and ran with them, looking them in the eyes, knowing we are giving them our full attention.

Maybe admitting I have a problem is the first step towards recovery.

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