Distracting Ourselves to Death
As I sat with my Bible and morning prayers today, I found myself staring out the window, watching the trees sway in the breeze. Why don’t I do this more often?
I’m a fan of Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death. It was originally written in 1985, and he’s written several follow-ups to it that I haven’t read, but his initial point is pretty much applicable without needing follow-ups. He essentially argues that we’re dumbing ourselves down by switching from a print culture to an image culture, and he feels that this will inevitably lead to our destruction. I submit that the human race is amazingly resilient and will find ways to work through this dumbing down and still not destroy ourselves, but that doesn’t necessarily make it good. In any event, Postman submits that it is almost the simple giving over to technology that is causing us to waste away. I question why we’re giving ourselves over to technology.
Technology makes life easier, which is not inherently a bad thing. Technology also gives us means of pulling us out of reality, and that, too, is not necessarily a bad thing (see Proverbs 31:6). The combination, however, can lead to some trouble. We now have innumerable ways of very easily pulling ourselves out of reality – distracting ourselves from what is actually happening. We do it by turning on the television, popping open Facebook, texting over the cell, and even reading books (sorry, Postman). Eerily enough, we can do it by studying our Bibles and going to church, too, but, honestly… How many of us use the Bible and church as our main means of distracting ourselves?
Reality is where God put us, and for the most part we need to live here. It’s certainly okay to take a breather now and then, particularly when we’re hurting or exhausted. It just seems to me that many of us run away all the time. The old saying goes: drugs are for those who can’t handle reality. If that’s the case, then we have thousands of drugs (and Best Buy has become our main pusher).
I’m not trying to bash on technology. I tend to harp on technology because that’s one of my major “drugs” of choice. I turn to it when I don’t want to deal with reality anymore. I’m anxious, and I don’t want to feel that, so I watch another episode of whatever’s on Netflix. I’m lonely, and since I don’t even realize it, I just naturally turn to email or Facebook. I don’t want to face it. I just want it to go away. And it does… for a little while. It just tends to come back in force.
I wish I spent more time letting reality impinge on me. If that means that I have to feel lonely or scared or exhausted or angry or guilty or ashamed or empty or a failure or whatever it is that I may or may not even know I’m feeling, then so be it. God lives in reality, and isn’t it better I hang out with Him?