I was food-shopping in the store the other day when a young father rolled by with his baby girl in the kiddie seat. In her hands was an iPad by which she was absorbed as something chirped, binged and squawked. I was amazed by the sight! Being so mesmerized by her small screen she was passing by all of those items which we as little kids knew to furtively yank off the shelves and get into the cart while our parents weren’t looking! When I left the monastery 11 years ago and returned to society I felt like Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”! I was amazed and dismayed by what had now become commonly accepted cultural practices which actually thwart and prevent our desire for connectedness with others!
We seem to now live in a culture of alienation and teach ourselves to no longer hear! There are people walking along with earbuds in, listening to sounds other than the actual ones around them! Aggressive talk shows encourage us to nurture grievances against others which keep us at an emotional arm’s length from them. Self-improvement books and systems convince us to feel good about ourselves by indulging our sense of self-importance but who eventually find themselves living in a hell of isolation which has no equal! In short, life today seems to be fostering a culture of alienation from other people. Fueling this is our cultural addiction to always be doing something, to always be producing something. As a result we run from task to task even when we don’t really have something that needs to be done! Many people honestly don’t know how to be-without-doing because when we stop doing we fall asleep from exhaustion or boredom!
And yet at the same time there is a cultural yearning for communion with others as is evidenced by match-up sites, date-sites, singles cruises and the like. The best thing that Dad (above) can do is to take the iPad away from his baby girl, turn it off and talk to her as they go up and down the aisles, teaching her that the connectedness she instinctively craves is actually to be found in relating to other people and not to things. If she looks up maybe she’ll even discover that there are cookies on the shelves to sneak into the cart!