Douglas Groothius made a post on multi-tasking that set Dan Edelen at Cerulean Sanctum off on something of a rant on the evils of multi-tasking and our modern "busy" schedules.
Let me say that both writers make some excellent points. Busyness, distraction and disconnection from the moment and the reality we are in are prevalent and unhealthy behaviors that we should seek to avoid. Certainly, many of us are guilty of over-booking, hyper-scheduling and multi-tasking ourselves to the point that we are not capable of devoting adequate time to the task directly in front of us. And, surely, some of us have obligated ourselves to the point that we are missing opportunities to connect with other people in a meaningful way.
But here's my question: What is new or unique about these problems and challenges? Aren't these dysfunctional traits and behaviors rooted in the human desire and drive to create a (false) sense of security or control? And based on the (false) belief that we can control our lives and create security? And further augmented by our eagerness to avoid admitting that we cannot create meaning and purpose, but must submit to it?
Didn't Augustine struggle with these tendencies without a cellphone, a PDA, a broadband internet connection or a lengthy commute in his Lexus to the library at Alexandria?
In short, I think the failed behaviors are real and problematic. But the solution is not going to come by asking people to live as if the constructs of modern society do not exist. We live in a world that is built on electronic communication, remote work locations, and multiple time zones. These are our constraints to live in modern society as much as those who lived in 15th century Europe lived with the constraints of the lack of clean drinking water, indoor toilets and antibiotics. Every set of constraints has implications regarding our behavior, but I don't believe that the constraints themselves will drive or dictate the level of spiritual meaning and value that the true disciple will imbue into their lives and livelihood.
To quote from my post at Cerulean Sanctum:
Susan said, If the church is to survive as a true community, we need to intentionally put our cell phones down, log off the computer, and do more sitting around warm wood-hewn tables with hot drinks... and stay a while...at the expense of worldly "productivity." Most right now are simply not willing to pay that price.
While this sounds great, where is the factual basis that "leisure time" as Susan describes results in some greater capacity for spirituality or Christian discipleship?
How do you think the vast majority of people (I'm talking about 99% or more) spent their lives before the 20th century? How much leisure time did they have? How many "weekends off" or "vacations" were they given?
Sure, their commutes were shorter - because they never left work! They worked 12-14 hours each day and did that 6 days a week. No trips to the park with their kids, no long weekends at the beach, no talking to family they were separated from, no spiritual retreats or workshops or seminars.
You guys are really judging a specific group of people with a specific problem in a specific subset of Western culture against an unrealistic view of history.
50 hour work-weeks are short, short, short when compared to how practically every person in every society has ever lived up until Western civilization in the early 20th century.
Our lack of spirituality and redemptive living is not because we work long hours, have lengthy commutes or talk on cellphones. It is because we continue to believe the deception that we are in control. It is deepened by our continued belief that our work has inherent meaning rather than being imbued with meaning because of how we do it.
I find a modern predisposition in evangelical circles with this latter issue especially troubling: the idea that work like farming or carpentry is somehow more meaningful than practicing law or accounting, for example. This is just another form of the clergy/laity divide that was in its turn a form of the false "secular/sacred" divide that sprang from that gnostic dualism that has shadowed the steps of Christianity since its infancy.
We will not find our "lost spirituality" at the peaceful fireside any more than we will find it on our 2 hour commute or in our email inbox. It will be created when we decide to live deliberately and purposefully - surrendered and submitted and wide awake.
Our ability to live in that manner is no more or less achievable with the constraints of the 21st century culture we find ourselves in now than it would be were we to find ourselves living on a farm far from "the Grid".