Let me say right off the bat that I love technology. I'm a big fan of my computer, I'd be lost without my phone, and though my iPod isn't strictly a necessity, I do consider it one of God's little blessings. Music at the touch of a fingertip... Ahhh.
But if there's one thing that continues to frustrate and annoy me about our tech-y age, it's the fact that people are rarely present anymore. I mean truly, deeply, totally focused on the moment. Coffee with a friend is also coffee with her cell phone--and all the people who call and text her during an hour of "alone" time. And car rides with the family aren't about enjoying the scenery and time together anymore. Instead, the kids watch DVDs or play games on their Nintendo DSi. We even surf the web while we're on the phone or text in the middle of a movie. A few weeks ago I received the welcome packet from the birthing center where I hope to have our little one, and was shocked to read the following instruction: "Our hospital enforces a no texting policy during birth and labor. Birth is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is our hope that you will focus on the birth of your child and worry about updating your Facebook status later." People text in between contractions? Are you kidding me?
I said I love technology, but it's a love-hate relationship. I hate what it does to our attention span, our ability to listen, our potential to engage the moment--to relish each minute that we've been given. How many little blessings do we miss on a daily basis because we're too busy multi-tasking to notice that God has gift-wrapped a sunset?
Sadly, I think the fact that we are easily distracted translates into every area of our lives. I know it does for me. I sat down yesterday to write, and I found that no matter how hard I tried I couldn't shut off the cacophony of voices that kept drawing me away from my craft. The phone rang, my computer beeped to inform me of a new email, my cell phone received a (rare) text. (I can't believe I'm admitting this, but I have never sent a text in my life. What a loser, eh?) Anyway, it struck me that even in my writing, my art--something that I love and that expresses me and that is essential to who I am--I am shiftless and inattentive, incapable of giving myself wholly to something that gives me great joy. That's just plain pathetic.
So, what to do? I think it comes down to small steps, little nudges in more positive directions. When it comes to being present with people, Aaron and I have set down a few ground rules for ourselves. For example, we refuse to have "call waiting." We will never cut someone off in the middle of a phone conversation to see if someone "better" is on the other end of the line. And we have one cell phone between the two of us. It's an emergency phone that we use when we're away from the kids or on the road. Oh, and though we admit this may change someday, we don't have a DVD player in our car. Rather than hook our kids up to earbuds, we play I Spy and point out wonders along the road. Sunday we witnessed a doe and her twin fawns leaping in the ditch.
As for being present when I write, I think it's time to start being more deliberate about reducing distraction when I work. I believe I may have to shut off my computer and write longhand. The good, ol' fashioned way. Who knows? Maybe sans diversions I'll come closer than ever to saying what I actually want to say. Wouldn't that be grand?
Your turn: Are you one of the few people who is truly present in the moment? Or are you easily distracted? What's the number one thing that steals away your time and attention? What is something that you intentionally do to cut down all the background noise and focus on what's really important?