Thursday, 06 December 2018 12:09

Being Truly Present

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Jesus’ public ministry was a ministry of presence. Being present to His apostles. Being present to married couples, the poor and all sinners. He was present, challenging the Pharisees on their contrived piety and endless rules that might never convert their own hearts to His Father. When He was alone, He was praying, so, again, He was fully present. He was present, this time, to the empowering Father, someone who could renew our Lord’s spirit and body as He martialed on in his mission of the salvation of souls. This was a God of presence, being present.

Is there anyone concerned about today’s cultural norms as they relate to tech? Technology is a salve or escape for many. Today, people are transfixed by technology, and it is not just kids. It’s all of us. The other day, I witnessed a few people who were tasked to work with children with disabilities zoning out on their cell phones. One problem: They were supposed to be attending to the children.

The intent of much technology is to increase our effectiveness and efficiency. We want convenience. We want to communicate quickly, get answers quickly, and receive information that might be pleasing to us - quickly. And hasn’t tech met these perceived wants and needs? I must be very happy, my cell phone and me! 

But when I’m doing these activities on a smart phone, am I really happy? Well, maybe at first. But over time, I become severely distracted, not present, wasting time. God gave me the blessing of time, to do His will, and what am I doing but wasting this gift? Time spent droning on the phone is time distracted from the ordinary blessings of the given day and my job to love my surroundings as Jesus loves us. Am I attending to my vocation as attentively as possible? Is my brain able to bifurcate well, splitting my attention between a cell phone and what is immediately before me? 

No. No. No.

Secular sociologist, Dr. Sherry Turkle states, “We’re losing the raw, human part of being with each other. She has been studying how humans interact with technology for decades. As an MIT professor, she has been afforded early exposure to many new technologies and their effects on human beings, both good and bad, alike. In her book, “Alone Together,” she highlights personal technology and its effects on human relationships. For instance, I can have 200 Facebook “friends” and be on the brink of suicide. With so many “friends,” how could I be so sad? 

Earlier today I watched a young boy enter his school with his mommy. The boy was expressionless; no smile, no frown. I seem to remember days past when many little boys always smiled, for apparently no reason. Maybe this is why Mother Mary visits children, in that, they harbor the happy pure innocence of early childhood and reinforce Jesus’ teaching to be “like a child.The boy’s mother had her cell phone and she seemed more interested in the phone than saying a few kind departing words to her son before she left.  

C. S. Lewis warned how the devil would really get us in his “Screwtape Letters.” The devil would make us so very distracted with “noise,” that we would never have a profound relationship with God and the extended body of Christ. 

I think this is where we are. The devil has created a giant noise machine called personal technology. He’s seemingly winning souls for darkness, i.e., a life without God, just technology, by making us believe how very “smart” we are.

As I write, I am thinking about the discomfort of giving up my smart phone. It became more difficult to manage contacts. There are times I have to call one of my friends with a smart phone, and ask them to look something up for me, because I’ve downgraded to a “stupid” phone, one that only allows me to talk and text. No data plan. 

But, how much more present have I been on the job? To the kids in my classroom? To my own two girls?  How much more praying have I accomplished as a result of being “stupid?”  Am I further along a contemplative path since giving up the smart phone? 

The above questions are important for me to reflect on and answer. But, more importantly, do any of the above words ring true for you? And, if so, will you take a corresponding, corrective action? 

DaneBairdDane Baird has been a witness member of the Home of the Mother for over 3 years. He has two daughters, Jean and Susannah. The newest addition to the family is Halo, wonder-dog! His profession is teaching autistic children and he enjoys acting in several parish and diocesan ministries, as well as supporting the Home of the Mother.

His blog is called "Fathers Floreat!" Floreat is a word he heard on retreat, it is latin for to flourish, to bloom. Men should be blossoming according to God's plan.