Did you ever know somebody who absolutely could not live in the moment? No matter how much time they devoted to planning a special event, like a birthday or graduation party, no sooner had it begun than they started thinking and talking about the next thing they had going on. I always find it frustrating to be with people like that. I was at a wedding once and one of the planners was practically taking people’s plates to throw them away before they were finished eating. I tried to talk to her about it and she just brushed me off and told me she couldn’t help it - her mind was preoccupied with cleaning up and getting on to the next thing she had going on. Not only did she come across as being incredibly rude and impatient, it occurred to me how hard it must be to live life that way.
How can you ever enjoy anything in life if you are never fully present in the moment as it happens? What if the thing you are doing right now is actually fun or beneficial, and whatever is coming next is horrible -but that's where you are living? Or what happens when life slows down and there are no more events anytime soon to look forward to? In the past, I have only known a few people who were that way.
I realized at the high school today, I know a lot of people who are like that now. The majority of teens I work with seem to be glued to their cell phones constantly. It is not uncommon to ask them several times to stop texting and pay attention when I speak - even if we are sitting side by side working on something together. The phones only get put away for a few minutes when I ask and the students don’t become present even then. Their minds remain clearly focused on whatever texts they were sending and receiving.
When I approach a student about a cell phone it is not uncommon for him or her to immediately tell me he or she is texting his/her mom or dad or grandma or dog or someone equally important who has authority over them and will apparently become angry if I stop them from responding. I’m betting if I actually grabbed a cell phone or two to see Mom or Dad’s text I would find out it is actually Suzi or Tommy on the other end. But I don’t bother.
I just ask them to put the phone away and pay attention to what I am saying. Sometimes it starts to feel like the most annoying game in the world, because usually I am trying to help more than one student at a time. You would think I could get someone started and then turn to the next one - and get him/her going and so on until I come full circle to the first one. That isn’t what happens. I get one started and then turn to the next and the first one pulls his/her phone out while I am distracted and starts texting again. So I try to help while policing the phones at the same time - and it gets very frustrating.
I don’t know how to impress upon students how rude and impatient they appear to be - and we as a society have created this monster. We have allowed ourselves to be lost to the moment we are in. Heaven forbid I feel even one second of boredom - or have a single minute of idle time. We have lost the ability to bring ourselves fully into the present and the events happening around us at that time. Instead, we are partially there, but at the same time we are in someone else’s world wherever he or she might be. Or even in several people’s worlds.
I think this causes us to lose many great opportunities to engulf ourselves in beauty or to learn new things. I understand school can seem boring and pointless at times, especially when concepts are hard to grasp and learn. I remember those days.
But sometimes I think part of the problem is in order to learn students need to be fully present and engaged in the discussion or the lecture or the movie or the worksheet. Even though they think they can multi-task - and I do believe in some ways they are capable multi-taskers - depending on the situation - I have yet to meet a student who could learn while his/her mind was focused on texts or social media or whatever the distraction was. Even the brightest learner cannot do it. How can you apply or remember something you have not even heard?
One of the weird things about this new generation of people who are incapable of being fully present in the moment is -unlike the individual I mentioned earlier who was wrapped up in what was coming next in her life - they are not wrapped up in what is coming next for them. They are inserting themselves in other people’s moments. I have a feeling while social knowledge of what is happening in other people’s lives is increasing, intellectual knowledge of history or math or science or insert any other subject is decreasing.
I predict overall the most successful individuals to come out of this society are going to be the people who are capable of dragging their attention off their electronics and bringing themselves fully into the present moment they are living.
I think this inability to experience now also affects people spiritually. Even when we are alone, we don’t have to be alone. Did you ever think about that? There have been times in my life when I felt so utterly and completely alone and I realized I wasn’t because God was there. I fully believe those were valuable times because I never would have learned to be dependent on Him if it weren’t for the times I was physically alone and He was spiritually there.
What if I had simply started texting a friend and found love and support that way? Not that it’s bad to seek out friends for help because I know God uses them; but humans are fallible and they can let us down. Had I not fully engaged in the pain of the moment and called out to God for comfort and help I might never have developed the relationship with Him I have now. I find I absolutely cannot have my cell phone in the room when I am reading my Bible and trying to pray. The temptation to check my texts and email and Facebook messages is so great it drives me nuts.
I don’t know how to combat this rather frightening situation with the people in my life. I wish everyone I know could put down their phones, computers, and other electronics, stop everything completely and just be in the moment we are in right now - and hold onto that all the time. We are missing out on life and so much more!
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