I was reminded of something this morning.
While driving down Interstate 35, I was almost sideswiped by some dude cruising along, caught up in his own world. He didn’t even notice he had swerved into my lane. Not really. He corrected himself just before his orange hybrid plowed into my truck, by some keen sense of automatic direction, without ever taking his eyes of his phone.
Now that’s skill!
Or is it something else? This guy flew down the ramp, entered the freeway at full speed (70 in Iowa) all while reading his texts or scanning Twitter or looking at his maps or whatever. He was there, but not really there at all. Didn’t even look up as I drove by him. If he had he would have seen a killer stink eye, let me tell you what!
Why are we so distracted?
I’ve thought about this for a long time, because I wrestle with it too.
Ever sit in a waiting room at the doctor’s office? Or in the terminal at the airport? What do you see? Phones in faces, tablets in hand, laptops out. We are the zombie generation. Rarely is there a book to be seen anymore. And even more uncommon is there a conversation being had with a stranger. We’ve lost interest in the world around us. Words With Friends. Angry Birds. Pokemon Go! We have a lot of things to entertain us, and it almost seems that if we are not stimulated every second of every hour, well then we’re kind of lost.
I’ve seen it with my kids and television. I’ve seen it with my older boys with their phones. I’ve seen it with grown adults.
I’ve seen it with myself.
Why is it easier to stare at a phone than to engage with the people around us? It hasn’t always been this way. Social media is great for connecting with people all over the globe, but in that I think we’re losing the sense of community. Are we really connecting with anyone when we don’t even connect with the people in our own household?
Perhaps its a condition of the society we live in. Everything is fast. Everything is available. Everything is automatic. Fast food, email, snapchat. We’re connected to so much information at the touch of a button. Everything around us screams for our attention. Buy this! Go here! Do this! Eat this! Drink this! There’s an app for that.
What is this doing to us? To our inner self, our soul? It’s no wonder most of us struggle finding peace and true contentment. Joy doesn’t come from insulating ourselves with things and busyness. It comes from experiencing the richness of a simple, uncluttered and passionate life. We’ve plugged into the Matrix, though, and our passion is relegated to merely being entertained.
So I am reminded again of how important it is for me to unplug. To withdraw at the end of every day from the rat race. To set the example for my family. My home should be a sanctuary, where I can pull back from the hustle of work and the buzzing noise of the world. Where my children are the focus. Where we build each other up instead of tune each other out. I’ve written about watching the sunset more and enjoying the solitude of a walk in the snow. Those are ideal moments I’ve tried to hold onto, but unless I’m intentional about making this a lifestyle, that’s all those things will ever be. Moments washed out by the careless distractions that consume me every day, every hour, every second.
I’m not talking about going off the grid. That’s attractive to some people, but not realistic for me. What I’m talking about is a deeper engagement with the world around me; the people in my life, in my community and in the natural world I so often take for granted. There’s something that has been lost, something important to the development of our inner heart, and I want to recapture it. The adventure of living. Of being present in the moment.
It doesn’t happen without being intentional about it though. It’s easier to be distracted. That, at least for me, is the first step.