by Father Mark Goldasich
Remember the song, “Blinded by the Light”?
My worst case of light blindness occurred a couple of months ago at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. A couple of college students were seated in front of me. When the house lights dimmed, all attention turned to the stage — at least for 10 minutes or so. About that time, one of the students in front of me turned on her phone to check her email. The bright light was disconcerting and distracting. She put the phone away for another 10 minutes, and then hauled it out again to check what was happening on Facebook. Like a moth, my eyes were immediately drawn away from the action on stage to that light in front of me. Another 10 minutes or so passed, and again the phone lit up.
At that point, a usher materialized and did something that I’ve never seen in all the years I’ve had season tickets at the Rep. In no uncertain terms, she told the young woman to shut the phone off and leave it that way. That did the trick. Sadly, the student did not come back after the intermission.
OK, I’m going to put on my “old geezer” hat and complain a little bit. Now, I enjoy my iPhone, but I truly believe that it’s become an addiction for many people. It’s like a drug that they can’t do without, even for the two hours or so of a live (and high quality) theater performance.
It’s as if people today are never content to be where they actually are. The siren song of the virtual world seems so much more attractive. And that song lures in not only the “addicted” person but also everyone in the immediate vicinity. My young friend at the theater, in checking her phone every 10 minutes, disrupted the flow of the play and its en-joyment for rows of people around her.
This disturbing modern-day addiction is powerfully captured in a short two-minute video on YouTube, entitled “I Forgot My Phone.” It captures some everyday scenes — from waking up in the morning to exercising to spending time with friends to attending a concert — but sadly, no one is really ever “there.” Attention is turned to capturing the moment, rather than being present to it.
A couple of startling images stand out. Two girls are on swings at a playground: one is happily swinging away, while the other sits still on her swing, attention glued to the screen of her phone. A second scene features a guy proposing to his fiancée, but he’s more concerned about getting a picture of the event than savoring the specialness of the moment.
That brings to mind this cautionary tale:
There was a man whose consuming passion was to go to heaven. Finally,
he died and did go there. An angel took him by the hand and showed him some beautiful sights: majestic mountains, lovely flowers, gorgeous sunsets, little children happily playing in the streets. The man exclaimed, “Isn’t heaven wonderful?” But the angel said, “This isn’t heaven; this is the world in which you lived, but never actually saw.” (Adapted from Paul J. Wharton’s “Stories and Parables for Preachers and Teachers.”)
I’d like to propose something for the upcoming holiday season. Commit to experience it — actually, not virtually. For example, rather than capturing yet another slew of family photos, spend time instead attentively chatting face to face with each member of the clan. In fact, if you’re really serious (and bold), set up a decorative basket by the front door, where guests can deposit their cellphones, to be picked up — along with their coats — as they leave at the end of the gathering.
Let’s decide, here and now, never to be so blinded by the light of our phones that we fail to truly see the blessings, especially of family and friends, literally right before our eyes.