the palace of distraction

March 31, 2008

While I was driving to work this evening, I heard a radio segment called The Urban Man . Basically, this nerdy guy tells us all about the struggles to remain human while living in LA. Tonight’s was particularly interesting because his topic was about how we modern people are so addicted to distraction.

There’s a spiritual sickness in too much distraction and diversion. In my own life, I have certain tasks that I know I need to do, but so often I go for what feels less boring at the moment. This can lead to all kinds of weird habits and pursuits. It’s not that entertainment is bad. It has its place. It’s just when we’re so addicted to pleasurable activities that we can’t fulfill our responsibilities, or we grudgingly do things with our minds somewhere else.

There’s something spiritually rewarding and God-glorifying about accepting the work that we have and doing it dutifully and sacrificially as a way of obeying God. Henri Nouwen gives a great definition of obedience as “a way of listening to God” in his book Spiritual Direction . He also talks about deafness to God, or absurdity (ab sardus: not hearing) as the opposite of obedience. In this view, obedience isn’t so much a certain list of rules and duties, but a way of being in the world, a way of walking in step into what God is doing right in front of you.

So often I’d rather be so many other places than work, the DMV, Costco, a party of a friend of a friend, a job interview, etc. But by avoiding listening to God at those moments, I’m actually selling myself short, even disobeying and not being the person I’m created to be. Bonhoeffer has a really interesting quote about his calling in life that serves as the antithesis of this distracted, deaf existence that we all battle on a daily basis. He says, in his letter to Eberhard Bethge :

“I’m still discovering right up to this moment, that is it only by living completely in this world that one learns to have faith.  By this-worldliness I mean living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities. ”

It’s such a daily struggle just to be human and nothing less.  Truly living in this world means listening to God in everything.  That’s true humanity, and it glorifies God. 

As Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is a man fully alive”.

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2 Responses to “the palace of distraction”

  1. Amy (aka Mom) said

    Distractions multiply as the world gets more technology. Like reading blogs instead of reading books.

  2. Nate said

    True, technology hasn’t made life any less complicated. However, blogs are a lot shorter than books, especially when you check them periodically…

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