Screen-free Ride

I thought I would share a simple, homey insight from a recent experience.

My wife, four children and I recently went to a beach that was ~ three hours’ drive from our home. We went this last Sunday (Father’s Day), which is also our family’s weekly “no screen” day when we give cause for setting aside entirely that screen-lit empty stare that embodies the hypnotic power technology often exercises over the minds and hearts of our children (and their parents). But there is a notable exception to that rule: watching sports that we enjoy.

The idea for a weekly screen-fast was originally my wife’s, and, though every week we face fresh, vehement and creative resistance, it has borne tons of good fruit in our family. Though we work relentlessly — against the swift cultural tide! — to preserve in our children’s lives clear technology limits, Sundays sometimes feel like a remake of the movie Cocoon as our children awaken to remember that the real world that exists apart from screen-technology is the real rock on which our lives must be built. Again, my wife is the champion of our familial perseverance in running this race.

Sunlight Hurts My Eyes

Sunday’s long ride on I-10 admitted no exception to this rule. As the ride was filled with all of the normal bickering that long car rides breed, we were forced to do the arduous work of relating to each other up-close and personal, finding countless ways to pass the time that involved engaging creatively in the low-stimulation world of metal, glass, paper, wood, asphalt, signs, cars, trucks sunlight, rain, flesh and blood. We engaged in such traditional favs like the A-B-C game, 20 questions, drawing, interpreting cloud forms, getting truckers to blow their horn, reading, telling jokes, singing, looking into the endless stretches of Slash Pines for some sign of wildlife.

Unlike our long rides smoothed out by the calming and insulating effect of glowing screens, our six hours of driving were messy and funny, filled with playful laughter and commanded silence, spontaneously created songs and silly skits, loud laments of boredom sprinkled with countless minor transgressions followed by halfhearted and (mostly) coerced pardons. Then there are those endless requests for more food (which is when Patti pulls out the secret weapon: fruit & veggies) and the predictably staggered announcements of bathroom “emergencies.”

At the end of the day, and even the next morning, all of us admitted we felt closer, that it was fun in a gritty way, that we enjoyed the day in a way that surpassed the enjoyments of the iWorld. And it built equally gritty virtue, I believe. At least those are the nobler claims I cling to.

Tranquillitas Ordinis

totally get the seduction of the pacifying power of technology that makes for a more “peaceful” long car ride, but if St. Augustine is right in saying that true and abiding peace is to be found in the “tranquility of order” based on justice and love, than such a peace can only be had as a result of the hard, boring and tangled labor of finding enjoyment in the world in front of you; of loving and doing justice to the bothersome neighbor, sibling, spouse, parent that is inescapably locked with you in the same car. I am not against technology per se at all, but it must always serve the primary vocation of the human person: to learn to love God by loving the neighbor who has bad breath and annoying habits, who is sitting right next to you daring you to try.

9 comments on “Screen-free Ride

  1. Tim Roach says:

    Hey Tom, I like the assessment, “fun in a gritty way”. Hey to Patti.

  2. Lisa Schmidt says:

    Howdy friend! Excellent post! Thank you.

    Julie Nelson and I just had counselor Randy Kiel on our radio show. He provided insightful advice for integrating your college-age children back into the family for the summer (and sometimes beyond!). At any rate, we talked about the technological fallout of together-alone time — how easy it is to become isolettes gathered around a table without any relationship building happening. Then Randy continued to make a theological connection: How can we possibly get the True Presence if we can’t even be present to one another in our homes?

    Thanks for reinforcing something, I think, the Holy Spirit really wanted me to hear this week.

  3. Judy Svendsen says:

    Great post Tom! Thanks for sharing. We had technology on our recent car rides. We drove to UT in one day, was there a day, and then drove back in one day. Our best parts of the car ride was the great comments that came from our youngest Rachel. She is so good at getting everyone to laugh. She and Nicole kept us entertained when they weren’t sleeping or watching DVD’s. Enjoy your summer!!

  4. […] My wife, four children and I recently went to a beach that was ~ three hours’ drive from our home. We went this last Sunday (Father’s Day), which is also our family’s weekly “no screen” day when we …read more […]

  5. WoopieCushion says:

    All this and then someone “cuts” a big one : )
    This is your genius bro…you’re deadly good in this narrative spot and I don’t mean in the flatulent scense! St. Augustine, pray for us!

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