What we call “at least being there” as quality spouse or family time, they see as either just the back of our heads or just our eyes above the cover of our laptops as we write … I’ve promised to try to do better at being present with her and the family, learning to be in the moment and raising the curtain. It’s funny how any of us can be at home yet functionally absent, focused on whatever side project or work we’re doing.
As I reflect on that blog, I’m wrestling with how much of a multi-tasking society we are. We’re in a hurry to be busy, because as we all know, busyness is a direct reflection of how important we are. I know personally, if I can kill two birds with one stone—say listening to research for a novel while at work or getting some typing done while the kids watch television—I’m going to go it. What we often forget are the relational consequences of such things.
Part of it is because we don’t multi-task nearly as well as we think we do. Our concentration is divided, our focus is split, and things inevitably fall through the cracks. Part of it is we can’t multi-task relationships. When people are multi-tasked, they are getting the short thrift of things. I’ll tell you right now, if I were to get an iPhone, I would be checking out of many relationships. I’d be playing on that thing constantly. A date with my wife would be filled with me checking my Facebook. Time with my kids would be interrupted by my Twitter. Hanging out with friends would involve a lot of me checking my e-mail and miscellaneous surfing that I would justify by calling work.
Not that I’m much better without an iPhone. Sometimes it’s the side project that I’m working on or one last bit of work I have to finish an important phone call to squeeze in. There’s always something adding to the noise of our world. Not that a consequence of our technological ability to socially network is our increasing difficulty to socialize in the moment , but the sum total of the constant noise of our lives transforms and impacts our relationships. No one gets our full attention. I think of how we sometimes don’t see God through our multi-tasking haze. God does not hide and if He seems that way, it’s because He’s hidden in plain sight. We fail to see him because we fail to see Him or are otherwise attentive. We fail to be present with Him.
Is it our short attention spans? We just that bored? That impatient? That discontent? Or are we finding affirmation in our online noise, the re-tweets and the comments?
Nouwen believed that caring means, first of all, to be present with each other, ‘offering one’s own vulnerable self to others as a source of healing.’ One does not need to be useful as much as to be present.
We all want to believe that we are fully present with one another, yet I think of how many times our friends sat around with one another texting and IM-ing rather than being with the people in the very room with them. The first step to being a source of healing to your family and your friends is to be present, presenting your vulnerable self (think of it as a “living sacrifice”).
This is where we are. So during our family time, we have an interruption ban. No cell phones. No computers. As we attempt to be fully present with one another. If our families and friends are the most important people in the world to us, the least we can do is focus on each other as if they really are.