Some years back, Steven Tyler, the rock star, wrote a book with a very interesting title: “Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?” While I’m not particularly a fan of Mr. Tyler’s music, nor I confess did I read the book, the title really connected with me and seemed to say much about our lives today.
To state the obvious, the way we exchange information, communicate, and enjoy entertainment has changed dramatically. (I was always coached: start with something upon which everyone can agree.)
In the last 50-70 years, there has been a veritable avalanche of technology with the time lag shrinking between each new capability; certainly well before we have really learned how to healthily integrate what we already had into our lives or society overall. Much of what we consume electronically, and quite often our work, is there 24 hours a day pretty much anywhere we go: witness those ubiquitous headsets. And increasingly, with so much available online, it can be easy to spend a lot of time in the digital world with little physical human interaction. “Actually speaking to people on the phone is, you know, like so twentieth century!” Little wonder we do indeed have a lot of noise in our heads.
So what’s wrong with all this? Nothing really from a pure technology standpoint, if, and it’s a pretty big “if”, we are in control of the technology versus it controlling us. When the balance shifts in the wrong direction, there are both practical and spiritual challenges. An example of the former might be reflected in doctor’s advice that we shut off devices for some period before we hope to go to sleep to let our minds settle. An editorial comment here: It might also not be a bad idea for us to stop risking our lives and those of other people while driving, just to send that last txt. Just sayin’.
However, for us as Christians, there are additional challenges, given that we march to a different (Divine) drummer. Our call is to love God, to be in right relationship with our Father. And secondly, to live the truth that we are all part of the mystical body of Christ, and therefore to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In the gospels, Jesus is often blunt in His message that nothing should keep us from the Father. We are all familiar with Him driving out from the temple the moneychangers who were making a profit from people’s desire to worship. Not that Jesus in today’s world would lay siege to Facebook, Instagram et al, but that while they have many benefits and enrich aspects of our lives, that they should be relegated to an appropriate time and place.
For us to love our neighbor, we must first actually see them, be aware of them. One of the real dangers of automation and efficiency, is that they can flatten the contours of our daily living. Yes, you can get the Starbucks app, order your coffee for pick-up and avoid all human interaction. I guess that’s progress! You can bank online, shop online, stream your movies, music; the list goes on. And none of this is bad in and of itself. It starts to become an issue when instead of living the Fruits of the Holy Spirit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” we become impatient, mean-spirited, self-centered and so on, and start to believe that our will, not God’s should be done.
One of the Commandments tells us to keep holy the Sabbath. The essence here is that we need to make time, not just to go to church (though please do!) but to really open our eyes to what’s around us and be truly present both to ourselves and to one another. While that noise in your head likely won’t fully go away, hopefully disconnecting from some of that technology will allow for a more meaningful connection in the real world.