Wednesday, April 22, 2015

phone lent

In a word, Lent is about sacrifice.  

The religious imagery related to Easter is all about sacrifice.  It's kinda the whole idea of Easter.  Religious (and non-religious) people who have observed Lent over the last couple of thousand years have "given up" something as a way of consciously reminding themselves of the sacrifice of Jesus (or the sacrifice of good chocolate to your children for the non-religious, I guess).  

I was late to the Lent party but when I started giving things up, they were generally things that I needed to give up anyway.  Things that I didn't need to start back again once Easter rolled around.  There are several blog posts about past Lent sacrifices on here if you're really bored.  Oh wait, I should change that sentence a little.  There are blog posts as numerous as silvery stars in the cool night air on here if you're as bored as a lumber yard.  (One of my students critiqued my "writing" and told me to be more descriptive.  Is that better Jessie?)

This year I gave up my ridiculous amount of iPhone time for Lent.  I allowed myself to have 15 minutes of phone use each day, just enough to stay connected for school and to not get in trouble with G for being out of reach.  

The reason should be obvious to anyone alive today.  Humans are fully integrated with their phones.  I'm not just talking about the ones that walk around with earpieces in who appear to be talking to themselves or that you always think are talking to you until they look at you funny when you try to respond to them.  I'm talking about the hunchbacked people all around you right now with their faces glued to their hand held screens.  They're driving 3,000 pound machines at 70 mph, they're walking into inanimate objects and they're ignoring the living, breathing human beings literally inches away from them.  They walk from building to building or from vehicle to building and they cant tell you a single detail from that walk.  They don't see people, they don't see their surroundings and they don't really experience anything real.  Everything important to them is brought to them via their phones.  

I'm talking about you.  And me.

I do not consider myself a phone addict.  I'm not one with my phone.  Even still, my kids have tried to have conversations with me and they've had to ask me to look up from my phone.  Embarrassing.  I can't help but think about what I'm teaching them by my actions.  So I decided that restricting myself to 15 minutes a day would be a good idea and hopefully it would set me on a better path in my future relationship with my phone.  

Here's what happened:
I saw things.  I'm a visual person so being observant is a very important part of who I am and what I do.  Limiting my visual observation to a phone screen is just dumb.  I immediately noticed a difference in my surroundings.  The morning of Ash Wednesday I smelled the deep calming aroma of coffee beans as I went through the routine of making my coffee.  I heard the distinct sounds of the machine as each process worked its magic.  As odd as it may sound, making coffee was enjoyable and almost beautiful.  Then I saw the dining room.  It was dark outside but I saw the random objects on the table and wondered if other families had such odd things on their tables.  I heard the foot falls of my kids upstairs and listened to the big dog walk around on the wood floors.  I saw people with actual faces and eyes as I walked across campus.  I spoke to those people and smiled at others.  Human interaction.  Of course, half of them were distracted by their phones and didn't see me, but my experience was better anyway.  There were squirrels and hawks and there was an awkward tension that I felt seeing them knowing that one was going to be eating the other in a few moments.  Even in the most routine of routine acts, there was beauty waiting to be observed.  Beauty that you cant find in even the most inspirational of photos shared on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram.

This same thing continued for the 40 days (plus Sundays).  I drew more, I saw more and I talked more.  I tried to keep up with posting things on Instagram for shameless self promotion and school but I didn't have time to scroll through the feed.  I didn't open Twitter the entire time.  It wasn't really a sacrifice.  It was freeing and it was wonderful.    

But humans can be dumb animals and I'm human.  On Easter Sunday with my extra phone time available, I scrolled as far back in Instagram as possible trying to catch up on what I "missed".  That's when I noticed the sacrifice.  It seems we are happy to sacrifice time with our families, with real people to a tiny little god with a 4" beautifully detailed screen.  We're happy to miss today's varied hue of blue sky and not notice the whale shaped clouds floating above us so we can see what our high school friend ate for lunch.  

Because that makes perfect sense, right?  

I'm going to be a more responsible phone owner.  If you can put yours down long enough, maybe I'll see you out there and we can speak face to face about those whale clouds.