In a recent talk released on TED.com, Amber Case, a “cyborg anthropologist” shared her studies and observations of human interaction and human participation in digital networks. While her findings are interesting in regards to how our networking is very “organic” in nature, what struck me was the only spot in her talk where she expressed concern regarding her observations about our ever-present technologies (cell phones and the social-networking connectivity at play on them in particular).
“There are some psychological effects that happen with this [ever-present connection with others]. One I’m really worried about, is that people aren’t taking time for mental reflection anymore, and that they aren’t slowing down and stopping being around those people…all the time that are trying to compete for their attention…They are not just sitting there. When you have no external input, that is the time when there is a creation of self, when you can do long term planning, when you can find out who you really are.” [Emphasis mine]
I must admit that I often fall into this category of “always connected”. Sometimes, on the train into work, I will have my headphones on playing some celtic tunes, holding my digital reader in one hand, and the other is holding my blackberry which I am occasionally checking to keep up with work. The only time I don’t have some sort of input is when I’m sleeping, and I’m sure there is someone working on how to utilize that time as well.
In all seriousness, Amber’s 20 second quote has prompted me to look at my own life of prayer. We as christians find our identity in Christ, whose still, small voice resides in the quiet recesses of our hearts. If the music is always blasting, or the office or our friends control the reigns of our attention at every waking moment, how can we possibly be doing any self reflection?
When is it we form the convictions that inform our conscience? If our existence is simply reduced to reacting to our inputs or stimuli, how can we be sure if our reactions are truly a reflection of who we are, or if our reactions are right or wrong?
When we look to the Saints, every one of them brought a uniqueness, a quality that was their very own, given them by God. Each of us is unique, and God has a reason for creating each of us. For myself, one of the reasons I believe I don’t reflect many “saint-like” qualities yet is that I haven’t taken the time to ask God who I really am.
When do we ask this question? In prayer, every day.
One of my roadblocks to regular prayer has been my never-ending search for the “right” way for me to pray. I have received two consistent answers to that question in discussions with priests or others whose spiritual coaching I trust:
There is no “right” way
The only wrong way to pray is to not pray
So, starting today, I will begin (again) the adventure of finding out who I am and who God is, and I pray you will join me on this journey.
A priest whom heard my confession recently shared with me a good way to get started again: The morning devotion. By putting the day into the hands of God, we are more open to the graces made available to us, and will be more open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Here follows a version of that prayer, but in the spirit of not having to have “a system”, feel free to write your own:
through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works,
joys and sufferings
of this day for all the intentions
of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins,
for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and in particular
for the intentions of the Holy Father.
“The great method of prayer is to have none. If in going to prayer one can form in oneself a pure capacity for receiving the spirit of God, that will suffice for all method.” — St. Jane Frances de Chantal