Tranquility at Risk

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How would Jesus have handled having an iPhone? Would he have ever turned it off? Would he have been accessible at all times? Would his withdrawals to quiet places included words with friends or the not-so-subtle buzz indicating a new text? Would he have thrown it across the room out of frustration about the iOS7 update? Would he have had alarms that reminded him to pray or practice the presence of Jesus? Oh, wait….

I read a good article in “Conversations” magazine recently written by Dr. Archibald Hart. He speaks to my way of thinking because he addresses issues related to both spirituality and neuroscience. And from the way he writes, I believe he is a bit worried about us.  He actually goes so far as to state that many standard practices in our current lives increase our risk of developing an anxiety disorder. Some include (all on page 19 of the article):

  • Hurrying: Hurrying to do too much and too little time leads to adrenaline addiction and cortisol flooding.
  • Multitasking: As much as we love the idea of it, there is no validity to the idea that the brain can do a zillion things at once. (Rosen, 2008)
  • Being too digitally connected/addictions: Taking work everywhere and near constant access to addictive temptations like gaming and pornography.
  • Perpetual fatigue: Coming home exhausted, waking up exhausted, not sleeping well….some researchers are looking at the ways that our emotional states are being rewired as the digital world is rewiring our brains.
  • Perpetual restlessness: did I get an email?—check the phone. Did that client text back?—check the phone. Is someone out there thinking of me?—check the phone.

If I’m honest, I have to admit that every one of these actions creeps into my life on a regular basis. For example, I’ve been preparing to speak at a conference recently and have had to remove my phone and close my email window on my computer to wrangle my full attention on the talks I’m writing. I even needed to set a timer to build the discipline of staying on task and refraining from checking other things until the bell sounds. For me, I’m looking for that small injection of stimulation to fire my brain chemicals and help me perpetuate my need to feel connected at all times.  Without concerted effort, I can slide into all of these behaviors.

If we want to guard a life of peace and tranquility, we have to be radical.

“Studies have shown that the average person…..can only tolerate about fifteen seconds of silence” (p.21). When I read this, I did a double take. Didn’t the writer actually mean 15 minutes? But no, apparently, if you have any sort of discipline of silence in your life, you can count yourself far, far outside of the bell curve. Hart promotes regular spiritual practices that support regular times of quiet and stillness. I was particularly intrigued by the way he described silence as a “Sabbath of the mouth” and solitude as a “Sabbath of involvement” (p.21).  If we truly view ourselves as creatures in the care of a Creator, then perhaps we ought to lean in to the idea of slowing our pace and letting our bodies rest from the continual input, interruptions, and stimulation. What would this look like for you?

Dr. Archibald Hart, “Anxiety in our Digital Age: Creating a Tranquil Spirituality” Conversations, (Fall/Winter 2013)

Christin Rosen, “The Myth of Multitasking”, New Atlantis (Spring 2008), 106.

2 Comments

  1. So what happened to Jesus in your discussion?

    You know, observant Jews do not use electronics on the sabbath. They do usually nap…

  2. My 12 year old, asked me what Lent was. I explained it to her, and how the discipline of letting go of something that might even be addicting can set people free, and help prepare the heart for more of Jesus. She told me, “I’m giving up my iPhone for Lent.”

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