As I was sitting in a restaurant while waiting for my son to come out of the wrestling match event, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, I had a lot of time to just look around. I observed other people across my table, and I thought of the waste of precious quality time couples were allowing by looking at their phone devices while seating across each other. As these couples got up to leave, they looked like they had accomplished a business deal over the phone, and not like they had a good time with each other. It has been said that these devices have us so engrossed that people are trampling over things because they use it while walking, among other things. Not only is our digital age taking us to the emergency room with preventable injuries, but is taking us away from the ability to connect with one another and one’s self.
I was so busy at one point in my life, managing work and single parenting to four kids, that I lost touch with who I was. My life consisted in a series of tasks to fulfill every minute of the day, until the day was over. There was never a time to reflect and relax. The consequence? –When I stopped working and my car broke down, I was forced to just sit and think, and wasn’t sure who I was anymore. There are so many voices out there, that they can shut out your own.
There are only two voices one must hear to be whole: Your voice and Jesus’ voice. You can’t hear God’s voice unless you quiet your spirit. I practiced that this morning. I came to a place where I had to fight the “tyranny of the urgent,” and the “I must get busy, so I feel like I accomplished something today.” I just prayed, read my Bible, and meditated. Time was going by, however, as I was doing “nothing,” at the end, I felt that I accomplished much. You see, I looked inside to find what was there. I found some empty places, which helped me to pray in that direction, I talked to God, asked for his guidance, and wholeness. I waited for an answer; I asked for wholeness again, and God responded. At the end of that time, I felt ready to do what I was supposed to do, not just busy work, but I went directly to what the Lord was leading me to do. Sometimes we may think we are gaining time by rushing, but in the end we waste it.
Not only we waste time, but we drown God’s voice and our own. In the midst of so many voices, in the world which surrounds us, we can lose our own voice. Our voice is that small inner self that tells us who we are, what we like, how do we act, what we believe in. The world now is a blend of rushing through meaningless activities, and fierce competition with the entire world through the internet. It is no longer a competition localized to where one lives, no! Now we have to compete with people all over the world who for a cheaper price, can do what you do and perhaps better.” The busier we are, and the more wired up we are, the less connected we are with ourselves and the world that surrounds us. Annie Dillard, in her meditation “Presence over Productivity,” wrote:
“How we spend our days, is of course how we spend our lives; and nowhere do we fail at the art of presence most miserably and most tragically than in urban life-in the city high on the cult of productivity, where we float past each other, past buildings and trees and the little boy in the purple pants, past life itself, cut off from the breathing of the world by iPhone ear buds, and solipsism.”
I am not saying that we have to stop and look at every tree on our path, but we should slow down and “smell the roses,” by doing this we will bring a more harmonious flow, wrapping our activities within our lives, and not our lives unto activities.
It was during the time I stayed home, and I heard silence for a great part of the day, that I got in touch again with who I was according to the truth of God. The media, and especially “others” tell us who are, and how are we supposed to be. If we are only drilled that all the time, we tend to lose focus on who we really are, and of our own voice.
The best way to find our own voice is to shut off the others. Shutting the T.V, internet and phone devices for a while, as well as eliminating too much busyness, can do wonders to bring balance and clarity to your own voice. Even Jesus had to do this, and He didn’t have the internet, TV or a smart phone! It is imperative that we find the “solo” moments to look inside, and just think. Can you imagine Jesus having thousands of followers on Facebook? I like Facebook, I just don’t think that Jesus is looking for that kind of followers. In general, whether you follow people or you are being followed on Facebook, Twitter, or other, it just means that you like what that person is saying or selling. You are not really following that person, and it leaves you disconnected as a human being. With so many people asking to follow them in social media, is it any wonder that we are drowning into so many voices?
We can start by seeing what is around us. Alexandra Horowitz in her book: “On Looking,” Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, one of the best psychology books of 2013, explains that the art of “seeing” can be learned. She emphasizes that we have learned to disregard many things in order to concentrate on producing, in our goal-oriented society.
“It asks what is relevant right now, and gears us up to notice only that. But while this might make us more efficient in our goal-oriented day to day; it also makes us inhabit a largely unlived- and unremembered life, day in and day out.”
I started thinking about how much I had been missing in my life, by living it too fast. I started looking around my environment. I looked up my ceiling in my bedroom, and realized that I had never “really looked” at the pretty patterns. I had been living at my house for almost a year, and I never noticed the pretty engraved flowers and the design that the ceiling in my bedroom had! I knew then, that the reason why I had never “really looked” is because every night when I laid down, and I am “looking at the ceiling,” I had been thinking about something else. We look at things, and people, but our mind is somewhere else! We glance at the world, like zombies! We can intentionally choose what we pay attention to, in the pursuit of really living life knowing your voice, and God’s voice leading you.
We can’t shut off the digital age completely, but we can withdraw from it to find what your voice and God’s voice is saying. Making time to be still is essential for finding our own voice and God’s. Many times our world wrap us up with many “must do activities,” however, if we learn to let go of some things, sit quietly (not thinking about what one must do), and really look at the world that surrounds us; we will find ourselves, and connect with God and others. We will find that life will be so much more richly lived than we had ever expected.