Saturday, March 4, 2017
Ash Wednesday was three days ago and here I am thinking about Lent again. Sometimes I give up things. Sometimes I start doing things. The idea is to be a better human in some small way by the end of the 40+ days. I have realized that this has more to do with the thoughtful consideration of each day than it does the removing or adding of an activity.
Thanks to Lent seasons past I am eating more healthy, cursing less, not being quite as mean and drawing more often. I think there's still a way to search "lent" on this blog if you need to catch up. This year it snuck up on me and I realized I needed to think of a good Lent idea when someone mentioned it was Fat Tuesday last Tuesday night. After a quick tour of my brain I thought the best thing to do was to adopt the "draw in my sketchbook every day for Lent" path. It's not new at all and I've done it once or twice in the past, but it is a good one. Such a good practice for a studio artist in general, but I've been drawing a lot this winter and I've relied on my sketchbooks for imagery.
So Wednesday night, after a hectic day of plaster pouring chaos at school, I pressed pause, grabbed my sketchbook and sat myself down in a quiet room. The quiet room was the thing. It was so calm. No TV spitting nonsense into the room, no music, only the faint annoying sound of a mean chihuahua coming from the other room. Every few minutes the giant Labrador would shift his head on the floor and sigh through his wet, shiny nose. I drew something, whatever it was couldn't have been important, but something struck me about the quiet while I scribbled lines. I don't watch a lot of TV or movies. We don't do cable or dish and on a good clear night we get like, 3 channels. We do have Netflix and a Firestick we don't know how to use, but it's uncommon for me to watch anything alone.
Every night I have downtime, where I sit in that same quiet room to wind down before bed with a cup of hot tea. What was different about this first night of Lent?
That freakin' iPhone.
Every night (and at least 145 other times during the day) I forget the quiet beauty around me and I'm drawn into the world of the hand held screen. The room may be quiet, but my mind is busy devouring junkfood. All the videos my feed spews at me. All the images my people have captured about their day. These are the moments when my phone throws up all that stuff on me. I love it and I hate it.
Yesterday I was driving early in the morning with the music thing on shuffle. My iTunes library is really diverse and you really never know what to expect with shuffle. The next song could be Wilco, Taylor Swift, Space Ghost, a song burned by a student from 15 years ago, a sermon, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong singing live on a spotty recording or it could be a chapter from a forgotten book. Friday, with the skyline of Columbia in my windshield, it was someone reading Jack Kerouac on a tribute album. Quoting Jack they said "No one looks up and in". I bet there's never been a time when this was more true. A quick glance across the 5 lanes of traffic proved this. Drivers with their phones up at the steering wheel thumbing through Facebook. One lady was reading a stack of papers. The dude in the work van was eating what seemed to be a three course meal while driving with his knee.
Americans walk around all day with our head magnetically drawn to the device in the palm of our hands. We don't look for cars when we cross the road or notice the deep blue of the sky. We don't notice how wonderful the wind makes us feel when it hits our face. We forget the warmth of the winter sun when it hits our skin. No one looks up from their phones. Forget about looking up in any figurative or spiritual sense. Who has time for that with Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr to update? And how could we possibly have time to look inward if every waking moment is occupied? When we get a spare minute we have to see if anyone thought we were important enough to email us. Or send us a message. Or tag us in a photo. We are all indicted. We are all guilty.
So for Lent, I will take a moment. Either a long moment or a short moment, whatever the day will allow, and I will draw in my sketchbook. I'll draw the weird outfit that walked by my window. I'll draw a student. I may just scribble nonsensical lines, but I will do it without my phone. I'll turn it off, set it aside and take a break from all the information it seeks to provide.
You are welcome to join me. Maybe we'll communicate about it through our phones!