“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
We live in distracted times.
In fact, I believe most of us, including myself, are living predominately in what I call The Distracted Place. The Distracted Place is where we are when we’re mindlessly staring at our phones, or editing selfies for a Facebook post, or watching Youtube videos, or surfing the Netflix guide, or playing video games, or, in general, focusing our thoughts and attention on anything but the moment at hand. As we have learned from the basic tenants of Quantum Physics, all solid matter is mostly comprised of empty space. So, too, is the Distracted Place comprised of the empty spaces of our lives, the empty spaces into which we pour increasingly larger amounts of time doing nothing instead of something. It’s the space between experiences, wherein we are neither living our lives nor barely acknowledging that a life is happening at all. In The Distracted Place, people blindly stroll into the middle of a busy intersection without looking up from their phones. They fall off cliffs while trying to get the perfect selfie instead of merely, and safely, enjoying the view. They post pictures of a wonderful meal instead of just freaking eating it and being thankful for the experience. I used to believe this was exclusively a trait of the Millennials, or what is now being called the iGen. But it’s not.
It’s all of us. It’s you. It’s me.
Spend a few hours at the airport or a local mall, and you’ll see the Distracted Place. People walking by, staring at smartphones, oblivious to their surroundings. If we don’t like the way a busy world sounds–or maybe the sounds of our own racing thoughts–we can crank-up the earbuds and lose ourselves in our ‘jams’. Moreover, as we push the world away, we also tend to push ourselves away from genuine human contact. We text instead of converse. We consider people we have never met to be better friends than folks we have known our entire lives. We even disconnect from our own lives, crafting for ourselves a grinning online persona that rarely matches up to the anxieties and insecurities of the real thing. If the Distracted Place is anything, it is a contrived safe space where all the unpleasant stuff is avoided for the length of a stupid cat video or a self-aggrandizing Facebook post.
Of course, the Distraced Place involves more than just fake-living in the virtual world. My Distracted Place is routine. It’s obsessing on the past while ignoring the future, or, more importantly, the present. It’s worrying about crazy bullshit I can’t do anything about, which is much easier on the nervous system than coming up with new solutions for today’s problems. It’s a few cocktails alone on the patio instead of having a conversation with my wife. It’s staring at the television instead of reading a book or writing a poem. It’s a bunch of sleeping pills and a big loud fan at night to shut-down my thoughts.
Maybe I’m over-stating things, but it certainly feels as if we are zombie-walking through our lives at a moment in history when that is probably the worst thing in the world to be doing. With or without us, life is speeding-up. Global economies are tanking, violence is spreading, and nations are taking sides against nations. Fanatic and dangerous theologies are growing as true spirituality dies beneath the weight of immediate gratification and narcissism. Jesus H. Christ, where’s it all heading? I’m not a big End Times Theology guy, but there are those moments when I consider going to the Walmart for a frog and locust umbrella.
Then again, maybe the End Times won’t come as a buggy-eyed lobbing of nukes and ICBMs, but rather in the slow creep of distraction? Even now, scientists and futurists are warning of the approaching dangers of Artificial Intelligence. I suppose it’s not too much of a stretch these days to imagine that as we become more robotic, the robots will become more human. What happens when they become more human than we are? Will we still be necessary? Gulp. Maybe the Antichrist isn’t a person at all, but a technology…?
Sorry. Not trying to freak you out on a Monday, just thinking that perhaps it’s time we start peeling away the layers of distraction from our lives, if we truly want to leave behind a better world for our kids. We need to liberate ourselves from the inner-prisons of the Distracted Place, and embrace this one perfect moment that we’re living in right now. It’s all we have. It’s all we’ll ever have.
In other words, we need to get spiritual, baby. We need to make straight the path, in our hearts and in our minds. We need to wake the f–k up, put down our phones, and BE in the world.
However you do that is however you do that.
For me, I’m going to go home tonight, crack a Bible, turn off the TV, and play some Johnny Cash…
Jesus loves you and so do I,