Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Bring back boring

BACK WHEN I was editing a family magazine—half a lifetime ago—we ran an article about the need for children to learn how to be still. It appeared under a headline (kinda cute, I thought) reading: “Don’t just do something, sit there!”

The author wrote about how parents should seek to develop a sense of wonder and anticipation in their kids, teaching them the concept of delayed gratification. If we needed such a message then, how much more so these days.

I’m not suggesting we ban digital devices and go back to abacuses and chalkboards. Still, there is more to learning than just having access to the latest gizmos and gadgets. It’s interesting to note that some Silicon Valley leaders don’t give their own kids unfettered access to technology at home.

While it is wise to help children learn how to use these new tools to their best effect, I can’t help feeling we also need to make them aware of some of the hidden messages of technology. Among the things our devices are quietly telling us:

Boredom is bad. Our “weapons of mass distraction” are making us soft. By constantly looking for something to soothe or entertain us when we are in line or at a loose end, we are losing the ability to cope with even minor discomfort. What is that going to do to our capacity to stick at things that don’t feel rewarding because they make us uncomfortable?

Everything is instant. When you can have whatever you want right now, at the click of a button, you never get to appreciate the exquisite pain of needing to wait for something, and the delight when it finally arrives. A friend still recalls fondly hardly being able to fall asleep when he went to bed on Friday nights because he was so excited about the Saturday morning cartoons that were coming soon.

Nothing is unknown. There is an immediate answer for every question you may want to ask—even if it’s not accurate. We don’t have to do the hard work of thinking things through for ourselves, of researching diligently, or even living with the mystery of uncertainty and ambiguity. Unfortunately, real-life problems—from flawed relationships to health challenges—aren’t always immediately resolvable.

And what is all this doing to our understanding of God? What place does our have-it-all-right-now digital culture leave for cultivating faith and trust, qualities which require time? It’s something to think about the next time you have nothing else to do.

Photo by Andrew Stawarz on Foter.com/CC BY-ND

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