A few days ago I had lunch with Anne and her tennis buddies. At the table next to us was a pretty, well-dressed woman with her teen-aged son. He sat across the table from her with his smart phone on and his ear buds embedded, bobbing his head and offering an occasional surly grunt to her conversation. She obviously wanted to spend some time with him, but couldn’t get across the electronic divide. I felt sorry for her.
I need to make it clear that, in spite of my sarcasm about the technological revolution, I appreciate electronic progress. I obviously am using a computer right now, and am a regular Facebook denizen. I am at the age at which I am glad for medical advances. My concern is a common one: do we control our technology, or does it control us? Here is a test anyone can use to make that determination.
Drive to the mountains (I’m thinking Appalachians). Find a trail head. Leave anything that beeps, rings, chirps or flashes in the car. Walk on the trail @one mile. Turn off the trail and walk @100 yards, far enough to not be seen, but not far enough to lose the trail. Sit down with your back to a tree, be quiet, and listen.
Listen to the small sounds—chipmunks scurrying, birds fluttering in the brush, dead twigs falling on the forest floor. Absorb the fear that something larger than a chipmunk may be out there—that’s part of the experience. Listen to the stream bouncing over rocks somewhere downhill. Think about how young and excited it is, hurrying to grow and meet other streams, rushing into the flat lands where (not foreseen in its exuberance) it will become a river, flowing past cities where it will learn the taint of pollution, over the fall line, and as age creeps on, will slowly trudge through the marshes until it finds rest in the ocean.
Look up at the trees. They are God’s perfect worshipers. Rooted in the soil left by their predecessors, they strive for heaven and wave their branches at the slightest impulse of the wind—the ruach of God. If the wind blows while you are sitting, you are doubly blessed. If it rains on you, you are thrice blessed. Think of the blessings of nourishment and refreshing that come to you from heaven and from others. Acknowledge that you are small and dependent.
Get up, dust off your butt, go back to your car and reignite your gadgets. If you found the whole experiment distasteful and boring, you are in bondage to stuff. But if something ignited in you, if you enjoyed it, you may find that you have a heart instead of a circuit board.