Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Loss of the Contemplative Mind

"A Moment of Reflection"
- daybreak in the desert -

I just came across a fascinating article in the New York Times suggesting that the powerful media devices we carry around with us all the time are becoming a constant source of distraction, inhibiting most people from just sitting with their own thoughts, hindering the process of personal reflection, introspection and “pondering.” A smart-phone or a computer is only an arms-length away from most of us and throughout the day many people are endlessly engaged with their devices – always checking messages, responding to notifications, sending texts, browsing the web, sometimes even having a phone conversation.

The Times article went on to suggest that instead of letting a thought marinate and deepen, we now have the ability to immediately send out an online post of anything that comes to mind in 140-character message on Twitter.  Today, people send an email or a text with the expectation of an almost instantaneous response and they are often offended if the response takes too long (I know lots of people who have seriously regretted what they said in an email because they just didn’t take time to reflect on what they wanted to say.) Nowadays, we go to the internet and expect “lighting speed” in our web access as we get instant answers to the questions posed in Google searches.

While there may be many advantages to the information our technology provides us, there is also a serious downside to it all.   

The article in the New York Times put it this way:
 The way so many of us behave in this digital age
may be indicative of the
loss of the contemplative mind.
We’ve adopted the ‘Google’ idea of the mind,
which is that questions are close-ended and well defined
and should be answered quickly.
Lost in this conception is that there is also an open-ended way of thinking
where you’re not always trying to answer a question,
you’re trying to go to where that thought leads you.
As a society we are saying that this contemplative way of thinking
isn’t as important anymore - it is inefficient.

As I see it, the loss of a “contemplative mind” is a serious roadblock on any spiritual path. 

For one thing, the spiritual path always involves building and maintaining relationships with others and relationships always take time and patience to develop. Healthy relationships need to marinate over time, good relationships rely on a "contemplative mind." 

Furthermore, a spiritual path is a “way” to connect with mystery and transcendence, a “way” that never involves quick and easy answers to close-ended and well defined questions. For the most part, the “way” of a spiritual path most often involves “doing nothing,” sitting present in the moment and waiting patiently to see the wonder that unfolds.

The weekend has arrived, a good time for some intentional “Sabbath time” – a time to unplug at least for a little while, maybe turn off the computer, mute the smart-phone, take a little break from all the texting and tweets and just “rest in the moment.”

The weekend is a good time for each and every one of us to breathe new life into our “contemplative mind” so that our spirits may not be devoured by those many gadgets and devices that are eating away at so much of our time.

On this Sabbath–time weekend I reflect on something Wendell Berry once said:

Sabbath observance invites us to stop.
It invites us to rest.
It invites us to delight in beauty and abundance.
Sabbath observance asks us to notice that while we rest,
the world continues without our help.

1 comment:

  1. Wishing you a peaceful Sunday and a Happy Father's Day.