First, a word of grace for all who have been routed, hurt, or killed by Hurricane Michael… May God hold all these persons and those who love them tenderly, and may an activated neighbor-bond manifest God’s desire for restoration, comfort, hospitality, generosity, goodwill and compassionate regard for all in need. If you wish to participate in healing the communities that have been devastated by recent natural disasters, you can make a donation to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) here. 100% of your gift will be applied directly to relief efforts.
These natural devastations have a cumulative numbing effect, now overlaid on the unnatural, or human-made, catastrophe in Washington D.C. I have reached media saturation overload and have taken to a much-curtailed diet of news so-called. Call it a fast of sorts, a spiritual discipline. I need less inputs, more silence, more walking without technology, more time for thoughtful conversation, less distraction, more opportunity to look around to see and hear. I need space for meditation, contemplation and prayer.
In the rain yesterday the number of people texting while holding an umbrella impressed me. Umbrellas have always been an urban sidewalk nightmare, but hundreds, thousands of distracted people looking down, have now weaponized them. When I was learning to drive, we teens were aggressively coached to practice “defensive driving” which meant keeping an alert look-out for the unpredictability of other drivers on the road. That’s now apropos of walking the streets—defensive walking—each person, a little island of self-absorption, bumping along the pavement. And those little islands will stay sequestered like that whenever they can, even when sharing a meal, lost in a texting miasma though friends sit an arms length away, who are, themselves, looking into their laps, thumbs flailing.
I recognize that variations on this topic have cropped up as a recurring theme in these messages. That’s because I’m seeking to report and to understand its impact on loving God and neighbor—creating meaningful in-the-flesh relationships with depth and vibrancy—the heart of authentic human community. It’s important we hold a mirror to our behavior from time to time so we can reclaim a conscious discipline concerning the things that matter most.
Spiritual discipline requires behavioral and mental habits. These habits will necessarily disrupt ever-encroaching patterns of distraction. It’s a choice we make, if only we can actually see it.