Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Electronic Disconnecting as Spiritual Practice and Discipline

The New York Times has been running a series of articles on our electronically connected culture and what that 24 hour connectedness might be doing to our brains and our relationships. This story shows a family of many screens, a family who probably has much in common with many of us. This story tells us how too much technology might change our personalities; we're likely to become impatient, irritable people as we use more and more technology. This Commentary series talks about ways to cut the electronic cord, at least for short bits of time.

I was struck by the one commentator who has declared a sort of Sabbath time with the family by having the Internet be off limits on the week-end. What an interesting idea.

Of course, the writer didn't use the term "Sabbath." In fact, none of the writers discussed the spiritual aspect of the need to disconnect from our electronics and reconnect with each other. I suspect that not only do we have trouble focusing on our loved ones when we're so electronically connected, but that we also have trouble connecting with our spiritual yearnings and our God.

When I was young, I chafed at the fact that so few stores were open on Sundays. Now that so many stores are open on Sundays, I lament that loss of downtime. Likewise, I used to wish for more Internet/computing speed and more capability. Now I find it to be intrusive at times.

When I was young, I read stories about olden days, when people sat in the parlor in their scratchy church clothes, as they waited for the end to Sunday. I thought it would be terribly boring. Now, I could use a spot of that every now and then.

An interesting possibility for the Summer: to disconnect more regularly. On this episode of Fresh Air, I heard filmmaker John Waters tell Terri Gross that he read a lot because he had no television. Likewise, we'd probably turn to healthier spiritual practices if we disconnected from our electronic media on a regular basis. We could read books that would nourish us spiritually. We could sit in silence and meditate. We could pray. We could sing. We could go to church. We could go to several churches. We could take a hike since we wouldn't need to be near electricity.
We could follow the lead of Jesus, and go fishing with a picnic afterwards.

Yes, I know there are many ways that being electronically connected has spiritual potential too. But those gadgets will still be there when you return from your electronics fast. You'll likely be the one who has changed.

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