He explains that, through a variety of historical manifestations including the revolutions of industry and technology, we’ve forgotten how to truly live in the moment. We’re so harried in our ’to do’ lists that we constantly look ahead to the next thing, forgetting that there is value in the present.
In “Hamlet’s Blackberry” William Powers takes a different route and argues that technology, and social media in particular, create an entirely new set of problems for us. He uses the analogy of a very large room that’s ingeniously designed to hold over a billion people so that everyone is constantly in close proximity to everyone else; “any person in the room can easily walk over to any other person and tap him or her on the shoulder.” In this room, wherever you go anywhere people are constantly coming and tapping you on the shoulder to get your attention. Of course what Powers is illustrating here is the ability of social media to become a distraction, one that has increasingly fewer boundaries.
The two aforementioned books make me wonder whether we give enough credence to isolation, reflection, and silence. The Bible talks about listening instead of making noise: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15, etc.), the “still, small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), “you need only be still” (Exodus 14:14).
I think that in Christian education this is a very important and oft-neglected truth. We speak of instilling a sense of awe in children of all things in God’s creation; however, this is difficult if we are constantly rushing to the next topic and constantly filling each space. Perhaps it’s time to slow down. Perhaps it’s time to create intentional spaces to reflect. Perhaps it’s time to focus on ambiguity and dissonance, instead of reason and fact. What are we missing when we’re moving? Are we guilty of rushing through certain topics in our haste to get to the next? Do we skirt certain issues because they take too long to properly digest and synthesize? When in our days do we take the time to simply reflect and let our thoughts take full shape?
“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him” (Psalm 37:7).
Honoré, Carl. In praise of slow: how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 2004.
Powers, William. Hamlet's Blackberry: a practical philosophy for building a good life in the digital age. New York: Harper, 2010.