And we do not even see the person next to us, or the environment we are passing through, be it urban or rural. We no longer have the sense of place. We can't feel the eternal ticking and chiming of a grandfather clock, the feeling of anticipation for a letter from a loved one, the delicious sense of sharing our most pondered and treasured thoughts in a slower, more carefully-wrought way.
And this extends to the religious experience of life, as well. No matter what our beliefs, the constant din of computer keyboards clicking, cell phone ring tones ringing or vibrating in pockets, the endless, mindless chatter about the moment to moment stuff we are doing steals from our spiritual focus.
Speaking as a Christian, that means less time in prayer and focusing on God's Word and will. For Buddhists, maybe that means less time on the zafu. Even for the non-religious but spiritually aware person, how does texting a play-by-play story-line of the day add to meditation or deeper awareness?
Not being a Catholic, I still appreciate these suggestions from Christopher Check at this site for stepping back into real-time and reaping its delights:
Tune Out and Turn Off...Do something radical. Throw your iPod and your smartphone in the nearest body of water. Check your e-mail only once or twice a day, and do not check it at home. Wait a few days before answering an e-mail. Use formal salutations and closings when writing e-mails. Do not send an e-mail when the matter can be discussed face to face. Write letters instead of sending e-mail. Do not use e-mail for thank-you notes. Set your home free from broadband Internet access. Do not answer the phone after 8 p.m. Stop downloading songs from iTunes. Throw your television in the street.
Fill the space and quiet you have created with things that never grow old: the Mass, the Divine Office, holy hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Read and shop for good books. Read books aloud to your children and to your spouse. Learn calligraphy or how to draw. Learn the guitar and some folk songs. Learn “The Ballad of John Henry,” about the man who died in a heroic contest with a machine.
If you must go online and participate in chat groups, use your real name. Anything else is a deception. Look things up online on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. Before dialing up the Internet recite a prayer consecrating your time online to God. Make every Friday a “techfast”: no Internet, cell phones, e-mail, etc.
Read poetry. Memorize poetry. Write poetry. Writing a poem is an incarnational act, even if it’s done badly. “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly,” wrote Chesterton. Even a partial attempt to unplug from the matrix will bring us closer to the people in our lives, closer to our history and traditions, and closer to our God.
(I especially like the idea of spending more time reading and writing poetry...)