What if God’s Plan was for us to do better?
July 7, 2013
I am a techno-luddite. It’s not due to fear of change or resistance to things new. Rather it comes as a natural response for me to anything that has the power to grab our attention in an addictive fashion. This concern stems from watching the human species drawn to that which increases our sense of separation from each other, the world, our human experiences. I feel it in myself; I sense it in others, this desire to escape into these multicolored, sound-laden, technological hollows of games, videos, or internet-inspired media as the world around us fades away.
The other day while grocery shopping in a small market, I noticed a child, perhaps five years old, trailing behind his shopping father. This beautiful boy with dark curls and sweet face was staring into an electronic device which he held, with both hands, reading distance from his nose. The entire time he spent in the store, he never looked up. People moved around him to avoid crashes, and a sixth sense kept him away from the maze-like set of display tables. The store has an international flavor, being an open market. It attracts people of many cultures more accustomed to that sort of display. As well, they carry a fine selection of types of fruits and vegetables not as common to a westerner. But this child lost the opportunity to avail himself of cultures who adore children, who would have given him a moment of love or kindness. Instead, when his father finally reached the checkout counter, he grabbed the shirt of this mesmerized child and gave him a gentle push in the direction of the door to the outside. That dear boy had no connection with the moment he was actually living, there within that store. He did not see the unusual vegetables or notice the fascinating costumes, or hear the alluring sound of the foreign languages. He did not get the opportunity to spark his curiosity, a chance to explore differences, or any attention left to ask questions about that amazing little market, or the world, or life. His world was flashing lights, mechanical sounds, and the slightly heightened intensity that his focus engendered.
Our attention is the most important capacity we have available to us as human beings. You could call it a force, many have. You could call it energy which we often do when we want to indicate something that we can’t entertain with our five senses but can see the effect of. We get to direct and position this force. In fact, we have no choice about engaging with it. Attention is always in an active state. The choice is whether we direct it consciously, let it wander aimlessly, or place it on empty activities that use it up with no nourishing return.
A fine question at this point in human history is why are we so needful of diversion, of places to hide out? We shouldn’t kid ourselves that just because we see the world and its happenings many times a day or interface with people all over the globe, we are engaged with life. I think we are more afraid, emptier, and unhappier than ever. And rather than own that, and begin to ask the more useful questions that might change our course, we sit down in front of our computer, or grab our phone, or play our games and, by our model, instruct our children this is how to deal with life.
I love this earth. Its order, its harmony, its beauty astound me. I love human nature and all the amazing stories it can engender through its sometimes hapless, sometimes crazy, sometimes endearing, and always compelling choices it makes. But I’m troubled that we don’t stop enough to examine where lemming-like we seem to be headed.
In a short but stunning poetic statement by Mary Oliver entitled: “Watching a Documentary about Polar Bears Trying to Survive on the Melting Ice Floes,” she contemplates:
That God had a plan I do not doubt.
But what if His plan was, that we would do better?