The Pandemic of the Preoccupied Mind

3 months ago I stepped away from social media. I had become too immersed in what was happening online. I frequently got into squabbles. I cared too much about how people critiqued what I shared. I watched what people were doing and saying all the time. I felt like I had a life there, to the point that I began to be less than present in my physical world. Most importantly, I distracted MYSELF with it and kept myself away from other matters that were most important, like my inward attention.  

I’m sure there are more clinical ways to describe the process of stepping away from social media. I’ve heard others use the terminology of social media “detoxing”. Which in my case has seemed to be the case. 

For the first few weeks I felt odd. Like a newborn baby, adjusting to life outside the cyberworld womb. To some extent it felt like a form of grief. Then, like I was emerging from slumber, I began to be more sensitive to other ways of interacting with my community. I called and texted friends and set up lunch dates. Strangely and unconsciously, I made some significant decisions regarding my future. It seemed that being away from social media cleared up my brain’s ability to function, kind of like RAM on a computer. I had so many internal conversations going on and so much new, good, AND pointless information swimming between my ears that I had let my mind get bogged down by. I had been unconsciously overwhelming myself with the constant intake of social media, and felt refreshed by its absence. 

To be fair to myself and to you, I know that good can come from social media. I’ve kept in touch with those who I would otherwise not be able to. I’ve received insightful ideas and shared the same. In this sense social media gets a bad rap as if IT is evil. IT is not. It’s a new piece of technology that we’ve not quite learned how to incorporate in our lives in healthy ways.   

Historically, people have always been critics of new technology. For example, many people were threatened by the introduction of the telephone, the television, the novel, the car radio, and the newspaper, just to name a few. Progress that changes the way we CAN think is often seen as an enemy to the way we CHOOSE to think.  

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I recently learned of Hugo Gernsback’s 1920s invention, the Isolator. It was the supposed cure for writer’s block and a way to help a person to refrain from distractions. Sounds profound, huh? He later admitted (and science has now confirmed) that You are your own disturber practically 50 percent of the time”. In other words, the problem of you being distracted isn’t the distractions themselves. The problem is that YOU WANT to be distracted. And if we’re honest, having the World Wide Web in our pockets just might be the MOST TEMPTING DISTRACTOR EVER. (full stop)

Regarding distractions, I’ve read of catholic monks who’ve made vows of poverty and simplicity. They chose to renounce their inheritances and refrain from marriage for the sake of focusing on and serving God. In their times of reflection they observed that if your mind is crowded with too many thoughts, living in a room with a single chair and desk won’t help you. In other words, your stuff and your actions with your stuff is a result of your thinking and your choices, not the fault of your stuff. You have to declutter your mind, and if we’re not consciously making an effort to do so you can best believe that it’s full to the brim. To lay this topic bare we need to be aware that our minds and our choices are where our problems lie, not outside of it, BUT the two worlds ARE connected. There is a very real inseparable connection between us and our world. 

The challenge is to learn to conquer ourselves with the appropriate amount of temperance and grace:To be free, not slovenly; To be balanced in our connectedness. 

I’m just one person, so I can’t speak for everyone but isn’t this the sickness of our day? We’re over-inundated with information, comfortable making ourselves vulnerable virtually, and yet so very disconnected from other humans. We’re in love with being partially connected to the others, but never really known. We have too much information, but not enough flesh and blood experience and the empathy and understanding that comes with human interactions of all types. 

Jesus didn’t pull any punches when it came to keeping us from harm. It was commanded of us that we should have no idols, that we would love G-d with all our heart, all our strength, with ALL our minds. See, G-d knew we would gravitate towards being divided AND He knew that HE was the BEST thing for us. He knew we would not be faithful so He sowed into our consciences a conviction about our commitment towards Him, but presently, it seems that we’ve all but fallen asleep to these commandments. We’ve been entertained into a damn trance. “Nothing can separate us from the love of G-d”, scripture tells us, BUT we can separate ourselves from G-d. We can choose to allow our ears and hearts to become callused. He will not force Himself on us; That’s simply not His way. If you know anything about being deeply connected to G-d you know that fully being invested in Him is the way to unlock true joy in life, full stop. 

Jesus didn’t come as a web page, He came as a human. Our REAL human presence will never be substituted or be able to be adequately avatar-ed with technology. 

I don’t have “an answer” regarding these new luxuries we now have access to, but I want to contend with you that the most profound friend you will ever have is beseeching you to not become callous to His presence. He is the one who can comfort you. He is the one who knows your future and your past. He is the one who will be your helper in times of heartache and desperation. So whatever you do, maintain your relationship with Him. Love Him with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind and be willing to recognize when something is hindering that relationship. Don’t allow yourself to be so entertained by your damn phone that you lose track of the L-rd. Start your day with your own mind, your own issues, with your Bible and with the L-rd in prayer. Stay connected to Him, listen and follow Him. THIS is where your purpose and identity are found.  

4 thoughts on “The Pandemic of the Preoccupied Mind

  1. Jason, Very good and insightful! Thank you! Praying you and your family have a happy and blessed 2022.

    Alan

    Alan G. Baker “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” Colossians 3:23

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