If you listen to the Religious Right, they will tell you that what is wrong with America is that pretty much all due to the leftist, liberal, commie moral relativists.
If we would just let them impose a ban on abortion, make it crystal clear to the gay world that they are abominations and ain’t gettin’ no rights, keep on throwing that electric chair switch, teach creationism in schools, and so forth, all would go aright again.
They consider that we are a secularist, God-ignoring nation for the most part. Now secularism just means you believe the two should be separate, but it has come to mean in the mind of the Religious Right that one is an atheist.
Actually, I think they are a bit closer to the mark here, but for the wrong reasons I would suggest. We are ignoring God a lot, but not because we are so deeply ensconced in our hedonistic ways. In fact most of us are not so at all. Most of us are fairly moral in that we raise our kids to understand right and wrong and live by it, we work, pay our bills and our taxes. We give to charity, help our neighbor, try to be responsible when it comes to the environment and so on.
We ignore God because we are too awfully busy. We have a TV that is in our office that is not digital, and we didn’t get the box, so we are limited in what we watch. Two of our local stations around here decided to ignore the June date, and went ahead and made the change. That all means that I’m stuck with Oprah in the afternoon.
Not that I listen much, but I hear a tidbit or two. A professional of some sort the other day, suggested we are raising a generation of children who are addicted to constant sensory input. They don’t get it from parents, who aren’t around much, being much too busy themselves, so the kids are increasingly plugged in to computers, Iphones, Ipods, and games. It isn’t just that they use this, they NEED it. The cannot bear silence or being left with their own minds.
The expert didn’t know what that might mean in the future. Neither do I, but I suggest that adults are no better. We are tied to our Iphones, blackberries, computers, Ipods, to the same degree. We need a constant diversion to keep up going. If we run, we don’t listen to the birds, we listen to a variety of downloaded songs to keep our minds busy. The same is true at the gym increasingly. Worse, multi-tasking is the key to success in the new modern world. Doing more than one thing at a time, means we get more done. Too bad that we do everything fairly poorly now. No matter, it’s done, and we can check it off the list.
Most of us, including moi, can barely enter the house without switching on something, usually the TV. The fact that I said I’m forced to “watch” Oprah, pretty much says it all. I’ve been raised to expect a certain background noise in my life.
As many of you know, I’ve been reading a book on contemplation. Nothing all that new. The usual, sit upright on a plain chair, feet on the floor, quiet the body, pick a mantra, repeat, breathe, and again. As I said, nothing new in this. It is the way of the desert monks, the way of all mystics pretty much, and certainly the way of the Buddhist.
God is found in the silence. Of course, God is found everywhere, but if we are attempting to bring our selves into deeper communion, we must seek the silence. It is only there, in the heart that we can “hear” the small voice of God’s Spirit.
As anyone who has tried, it is no easy thing. And most would say that you spend a lifetime trying, and success is never a goal. It is perhaps at best a byproduct of the process. But it is the silence, and it always will be. It is in the quiet of the mind, that place that is running full tilt all our waking time. It never stops, it never stops, and the more we consciously try to still it, the more rebellious it is. Yet, it can be slowed, and it can be stopped at least for brief times. And those seconds or minutes, if one is so lucky are spiritual gold.
Interestingly, when the mind is not about working out some real issue, actually processing an idea and trying to figure out what to do next, it falls back to its basic mode, thinking about things that have gone before, or about which we wonder about in the future. Yes, that is true. Most people don’t realize that, but I ask you to take a small test.
Set a timer for say five minutes. Close your eyes and just don’t do anything. Don’t deliberately try to think or not. Just sit. Observe the thoughts that travel through. I guarantee, after the five minutes that you will discover that your mind either replays past events, or it plays out possible future scenarios. It is never thinking much about now. Almost never.
If it did think about now, we’d all be better off. For being in the now is the best place to be. It is where we savor the smells, sights, sounds, textures, and so on. We are fat because we are mindless while eating. We drive places and suddenly come to and can’t remember the past three miles, and look around desperately to figure out where we are. We have accidents because we are inattentive while cutting vegetables, or taking a shower. It’s all because we live most of the time in the past or future.
God is in the present. He is the one who is forced to watch our drama about past and future. He is on standby. He wants to experience as us through us, and we force him to do so through the veil of the video of past and future. We are rather bad proprietors of the hotel I would suggest.
That is what is wrong with America. We are all so busy avoiding the world, that it is becoming a mess. We are disconnected from ourselves and each other. We are so proud that we can shop and do our various daily tasks, all the while never missing a beat from the Ipod.
We are in danger of losing our ability to communicate with our God. Unlike our ancestors, unburdened with all the junk of television, radio, computer and such. They had time to contemplate themselves and how they fit in the world. They had some sense of something so much greater outside themselves, yet to which they were indelibly connected. We, I think are losing that. We are becoming onesies, in the crowd but not part of it, never seeing the significance of our place within the larger community of mankind.
Perhaps it is why we find failure in our relationships so commonplace as well. Tell a person you have an email account (who doesn’t these days) and you can see the relief. We can keep each other at a distance, we don’t have to talk right now, we don’t have to deal with silence at the other end, inflections in tone, all the messy accouterments of interactions.
Phones are for leaving messages on, not actually talking. How often do you leave the recorder on when you are home to avoid those people you want to avoid. Let them think you’re out, but of course they suspect you aren’t don’t they? Don’t you?
We’re avoiding God in the same way, we, who are increasingly avoiding the silence at every turn. But the blessing is this, God is patient. He waits. As my friend Jan says, I’m going to stop neglecting God for Lent. I think that’s a good idea.