I remember back in the day of Dungeons and Dragons that role play games were considered to be weird, and some would even go so far as to say they were demonic. It was a fringe of society that engaged in role play and spent their time huddled around a board or later on, around a glowing screen and keyboard in the dark.
But today most of us are guilty of being the ‘weirdos’, engaging in a virtual reality experience that sort of looks like real living. I see streams and streams of updates on my Facebook telling me about people’s needs, wants and exploits in Farmville. Something like that is kind of a funny example of the larger issue at hand, innocent at the surface but it does smack of the same role play/fantasy type thing as D&D. I’m not hacking off on Farmville here or D&D though so stick with me…
I might sound a bit overly dramatic but I see a real epidemic in society right now. As much of a blessing as technology is it’s really stabbing us in the backs. Machines are sapping us of our attention, energy, money and contentment. I’m not going to get all sci-fi or conspiracy on you here so don’t worry but I do want to peel back a layer of this issue and toss out some ideas.
I love the idea of social networking, being someone who lives thousands of miles away from my long-time friends and my family. It’s enabled me to forge some great relationships- some really deep, some quite shallow. But I admit that I do find myself checking in at the expense of my day to day relationships and living. My immediate relationships and my creativity have suffered as a result of just logging on too frequently, checking up on people, and entering a few pat words on what’s up in Vickie-dom. I find that a lot of the world around me that I’m presented with has caused me to sometimes avoid reality.
I’m not living fully present.
And I have seen others who are really taking this to new and dangerous levels. I know people who cannot keep away from Facebook, IM, Twitter, etc. even in the same room with friends. Some of them are driven in the early hours of the morning just chatting and then suffering the consequences the next day when they’ve got to get up early and actually LIVE. And yet they complain about not having enough time. Their work is suffering, their relationships are suffering, and they aren’t truly living life to the fullest.
Even before technology really broke through to our every-day, we could see the effects of not living fully present. Daydreaming, fantasizing, affairs, mid-life crises. I mean think about it- what causes one person to cheat on another? Yes, sometimes the relationship sucks. But ultimately it’s because one person or both are not fully present in the relationship. Their heart is elsewhere. It’s a matter of discontentment.
Not living fully present causes our most immediate relationships to decay because, obviously, they need time, work and effort to grow and strengthen. Not living fully present leads to an immediate sensation of community, relatedness, intimacy, but like any hard drug it causes us to feel the torturous after-effects of isolation and loneliness.
I know several people who are wanderers at heart, myself included. We love the feeling of change, of seeing new things, meeting new people, broadening our horizons so to speak. It’s like having ADD of lifestyle. Sometimes we can find ourselves mentally in another place – ie. on the beach in California eating a burrito with no seagulls around. Sometimes it can be as severe to wish ourselves away, out of where we’re placed – either by life or by God Himself. We short circuit our futures by living mentally elsewhere- not being fully present where and with whom we’re situated. This can be in a city, with a partner, at a job, in a church, on a project. We allow ourselves to be robbed of the experience of the here and now- which is REAL, LEGIT, and STEEPED IN POTENTIAL- all for a few hours chatting to someone where we’d rather be. Or dreamily looking for a new home. Or just not investing ourselves fully because we spend too much time bitching and whining about the here and now.
I really hope some of my dear friends read this post because I’m concerned for your lives, your futures, and all that great stuff that is waiting for your attention in the here and now. Conquer this mountain, then let God lead you to the next. Be fully present. We need you.