I did not enjoy my last week’s drive to Albany. It rained the entire three and a half hours, and I wasn’t able to see much further than my windshield and the car ahead. Upstate New York is quite lovely, but I saw none of it through the pouring rain.
I had a little insight, though, as my car was being pelted with raindrops. This experience was symbolic of the digital bombardment many people experience throughout their waking hours. Since some readers are actually reading this in the paper (as opposed to the online version), I suspect that they think they have escaped the digital world, but truthfully unless they’ve stopped watching TV, listening to the radio or speaking on the phone, they’re still being bombarded with sights and sounds from the digital world. And most likely they have tried to have an in-person conversation with their grandchildren or adult children only to see them checking their mobile device every few moments. So no one is exempt.
And for those of us who are even more connected to the digital world of texts, emails, instant messages and social media posts, it really is like a saturation of raindrops soaking every waking moment of the day. During my trip, the rain eventually let up the next day, but there is rarely a dry moment from the digital showers. So I was considering what effect this has had on our lives.
Non-stop rain limits our vision to what is right in front of us. I couldn’t notice the scenery and couldn’t see who was in the cars near me. It was just me and the rain. That, I realized, is the same result we get from being stuck on our cell phones or at our computers or TVs. We often can’t see beyond the device and ourselves. The tea kettle might be whistling, the baby might be crying, the children whining, the spouse looking for some together time and yet the glow of the screen keeps us insulated from all that is really happening around us.
There was one moment during my trip when traffic came to a stop and I found myself under an overpass. For a brief minute, the rain stopped hitting the windshield. I could see clearly around me. It wasn’t anything lovely to look at, but it was clear vision nonetheless. It was a nice moment before I headed into the storm again.
So too it is with finding a moment without the “digital rain.” It is a blessing when we can turn off the mobile devices and be present to those around us, or even to our own thoughts and feelings. Time for prayer each day actually functions in this way for me. I was going to suggest that coming to church is also a good time away from the digital world. However, those who often attend St. Bernard’s know that we encourage people to take a church “selfie” from time to time and post it. But despite those moments of witness, church is also a blessed respite that opens us up to not only being together with our families but also to experiencing God’s messages and blessings. Give it a try.