I hate cell phones (I have one) and iPods (I don’t have one). They are true indicators of our fallen world. Modern society seems to be constructed in a way that encourages/enables humans to keep a frenetic schedule at all times. In today’s fast moving world it is nearly impossible to pause long enough for one to become aware of a need for rest, and when you do attempt to pause for rest your cell phone rings. (Did I mention that I hate all of those personalized ring tones?) The goal of all of these electronic gadgets seems to be for keeping ourselves busy. What is it about humans and our need to be driven to distraction?
For last couple of weeks I have been teaching Augustine’s Confessions. What continues to amazes me about the work is that it is just as profound today as it was in the early fifth century. At the beginning of Confessions Augustine states, “Because you made us for yourself our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Augustine understands that human beings are discontented creatures who are attempting to fill the emptiness (which exists because of sin) that is exposed by their restlessness. Confessions is Augustine’s autobiographical account of his attempt to find rest, and how he can only find it truly in God.
The entertainment industry exists today as one of the panaceas that we use to stave off our feelings of restlessness. One only needs to look at the ever burgeoning entertainment industry to see how much of our lives are dedicated to the pursuit of distraction so that we can ignore our restless hearts. I can see it in many of the students at the university. They play music on their iPods almost constantly. When they are not listening to their iPods they are on their cell phones chatting or texting someone. They are experts at filling all their waking moments with modern entertainment that distracts them from their fundamental problem of restlessness.
T.S. Eliot in his poem Burnt Norton states that we are “distracted from distraction by distraction.” Eliot reminds me of the fact that we are often driven by things of no consequence. We fill our lives with diversions that in reality are “filled with fancies” and vacuous. I am saddened by the fact that what we most often dedicate our lives to a pursuit of things that end up being nothing but a distraction and not a solution.
So often we pursue the thing that is empty in a vain attempt to find meaning and, therefore, rest. More often than not we end up settling for things that are far below what God would have for us. In C.S. Lewis’ work The Weight of Glory he discusses how we allow ourselves to be placated with temporal things. Lewis states, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
Psalm 46:10 states, “Be still and know that I am God.” Until we slow down and focus on the God that truly brings completeness we will never find rest. Our world of distraction, the tyranny of the urgent and our inability to distinguish real happiness from false bodes well for the future of the marketing and entertainment side of our economy.