"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

BlackBerry™ Christianity

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“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31 (NRSV)

I received a short email from a friend ending with the statement, “I’ll write more when not on a tiny keyboard.” I was perplexed until I saw the note at the bottom, “Sent from my BlackBerry”.

I’ve also heard commercials discussing how the BlackBerry™ allows business to happen in any circumstance, like waiting for a train or perhaps while having a tooth drilled. At the end of one commercial the actor-businessperson answers the question, “So now you can make use of your downtime?” with another question, “What’s downtime?”

My own experience with “What’s downtime” came when my boss discovered remote email. He was a very demanding man and the boss on vacation meant a chance to enjoy work for a change. That came to a screeching halt when an email from popped up in my in box seeking immediate answers. I too was left asking that question, “What’s downtime?”

Now, I’m not trying to be down on BlackBerrys™ or other handhelds. On a recent 5-day conference I was left feeling completely naked with no email access. Afterwards, I immediately bought a wireless handheld so I could check email anywhere. The need to be in touch and to know what is happening is a powerful one, and our sense of vulnerability when that is denied is telling.

Our world contains less downtime and technology has enabled an endless work-week. A survey last year found 71% of Edmontonians work 40 or more hours per week. An advertisement for a wireless device tells about Danielle, who emails girlfriends from a boring meeting to plan an island escape; and while on the island uses the same device to stay in touch with work. When does our wondrous technology stop being an aid and start being a means of enslavement?

My own recollection (from 24/7 on-call duty) is that you could never really rest. Any time of peace was invariably interrupted by that buzzing sensation on your hip – much like a hornet before the sting – pulling you back to the world. It is hard to imagine a mystic saint like Therese of Lisieux entering that place of intimate communion with God and being able to remain there while her Palm Treo™ rang with a Justin Timberlake ringtone.

When we do escape, instead of time in the desert with nothing but our thoughts, we talk to friends and check the closing market numbers. The human spirit needs the silence to rebuild, to reconstitute and to gain strength. Does checking each time a BlackBerry™ vibrates allow one to really enter a place of rest?

Disconnection vulnerability also arises from our deep need to feel involved and connected and to not be alone. Perhaps part of the draw of the BlackBerry™ is it always provides us with someone to talk to, so that we never need be alone and never need to approach the emptiness and silence that we fear but need so deeply. What is striking in the world is that even with all our technology-driven interconnectedness we are more alone than ever before. Real community only develops from looking into other human faces and can not be built through email emoticons.

Technology does bring opportunity to aid community. On both sides of the Israeli/Hezbollah battle line bloggers communicate through the explosions suggesting that community-building is on-going. An Israeli journalist commented the most surprising thing she learned though blogging was that the Lebanese were so like her. Restrained technology can bring great potential, but we can not allow it to usurp our need for retreat and silence.

Be intentional for the next month and turn off whatever technology you may carry for a time each day, maybe just 30 minutes to start. Our Christian response to the command (from another commercial), “Make the most of your time!” is not to get busier, but rather to retreat, to be silent, to intentionally enter a place of rest. As frightening as it may be, God calls us to a place where we need to turn off the mobile device so we can hear that ageless voice. The God who said, “Hear O Israel” requires no broadband connection, monthly subscription or network fee and thank God for that.


Written by sameo416

June 17, 2013 at 7:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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