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.
I 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.