on time, and being grown up: part 2

Yes, I miss the easy trusting of childhood. Back then, I didn’t question the likelihood of future blessings. I didn’t think much about the future at all. Children have a far better ability to live in the present than adults do. Kids can become absorbed in imaginative worlds of play; they have the patience for such play because they are not worried about the future. Lunchtime might come in an hour, but their stomachs will let them know when they’re hungry. Now is more important.

I miss that, too. Living moment to moment, completely, seems impossible as an adult. Yet it holds the best hope for a peaceful existence without the weight of anxiety. When I focus on the present, I can focus. Much of the time, my mind is so cluttered with regrets of the past and worries about the future that I hardly have the energy to concentrate on what is currently, actually happening.

It’s a shame. It is as if I have a form of ADD: I am so absorbed by constant distractions that I cannot focus on what is at hand. I cannot be calm when there are so many questions that cannot – immediately – be answered.

Perhaps part of the problem is culturally constructed. The speed of information technology overwhelms us with a constant barrage of images, sounds, music, and text. Our phones beep, ring, and play a tune; our computers chime with GoogleTalk and Facebook chat messages; we tweet on Twitter and blog on WordPress. Movies and television do not move at the individual mind’s pace, as does a book, but jump from scene to scene with short video clips. We are overstimulated, day in and day out; exposed to everything at once and left with no time to process what we see and hear.

Unless I take time out for the specific purpose of reflection, there is no time to do it. Where people in past generations had time to ponder, toiling at household chores or working in fields – without ear buds and an iPod; accompanied only by the music of bird songs or their fellow-laborers’ vocalizing – I rush from place to place, interacting with people, driving at high speeds, listening to music or talking on my cell phone as I drive.

I have more to fill my life than my ancestors did, but sometimes I think that much of what fills my life is simply filler, and not life.

Jesus tells us, even as adults, to become like little children. More than ever, in this age and culture, I need to learn how to do that.


One Response

  1. I once heard someone speak of activites that take our mind away from what is actually happening; he referred to those activities as “virtual experiences.” These activities aren’t necessarily bad, but he cautioned against choosing virtual experiences when life has presented us with real alternatives. In a sense, regret and worry are virtual experiences, because they take us out of what is here and now.

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