Spirituality in the Age of “The Internet”

Pass not beyond the ancient bounds which thy fathers have set. Hast thou seen a man swift in his work? he shall stand before kings, and shall not be before those that are obscure.

Proverbs 22:28

Cal Newport, in his book “Deep Work”, outlines some of the major issues in the global struggle for focus; busyness as a proxy for productivity, elevation of “the internet” as a mandatory good, social media presence ad nauseum. The list goes on but writing as an academic he demonstrates the need for skilled workers in every area of life, especially in the world which he inhabits, in the field of knowledge.

The same is obviously occurring in the life of religious and the life of the faithful. Not to say that everyone is whiling away the hours on social media and texts. But at every level of life distractions are growing to the point that digiphrenia is a recognized state of being, though yet to be formally recognized by the medical community.

Digiphrenia is the altered state of mind, constant in many, between who they are and who they are with, and their digital presence. Simple examples would include, constantly texting in the middle of conversations, meetings, prayer, Mass, lunch; checking facebook or twitter, etc, while driving, or socializing with others; you get the idea.

Spirituality and our relationship with the Lord has to have a deep meaning, and has to be a deep experience in our lives. The gravity of it has to weigh us down to earth, firmly rooting us so that we may then take flight in the beauties of life which the Lord unfolds before us in so many varied and constant ways.

In the Church, the varied states of being are witnessed by cell phones at Masses, constant distractions during prayer, and priests who are the new – and unwitting – middle managers of a global institution. As middle managers, priests are weighed down with administrative tasks, the false need to be present 365-24/7, the endless string of chatter from above to which one is expected to respond, and in general the many necessary time-sucking tasks of management which, while necessary, also prevent for great levels of deep thinking.

Deep thinking is that level of work which will take hours of uninterrupted time. Does that sound like something which should be necessary to the knowledge of Sacred Scripture? To the knowledge of God?

Beyond deep thinking one has deep prayer, which is at that level that requires of us time for reflection and contemplation upon the great spiritual truths presented to us in the Faith. The priest-as-middle-manager is no longer a viable model.

A larger issue is focus. As a world we are unfocused at the moment, and invested in passing things. Only the deep thinkers, the deep knowledge of skilled trades and artists, and deep prayers will discover that which is to remain.

More on this to come. It’s a – deep topic.

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