In the past few years a growing number of people have chosen some form of media or technology fast as their Lenten practice. On Ash Wednesday, a handful of people in my Facebook friend circle signed off until Easter. This form of “fasting” is occurring beyond Lenten practices as well. A friend of mine in Texas took the month of February to use his phone only as a phone, not as a camera, an internet connection, a map, or texting mechanism.
I’m noticing these turns to technological fasting all the more since I participated in a challenge hosted by WNYC’s New Tech City titled, ‘Bored & Brilliant: The Lost Art of Spacing Out.’ Through daily adjustments to technology use, the goal was to evaluate how (and how much) we spend time with our gadgets and to try to carve out time in our days for boredom. As a part of the series, a novel writer, who now boasts a huge Twitter following, shared that he used to stare out the window during long, traffic-filled cab rides downtown. Now, he spends the whole time looking down, tweeting. During the Bored & Brilliant Challenge he recommitted to looking up and noticing the world around him.
Whether or not you are a smart phone user, the pace of life itself can keep our minds and bodies continually occupied with no moments left for spacing out. This, as many artists and creators will tell you, detracts from our capacity to be brilliant, vibrant, and engaged human beings.
Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. He faced grueling temptations and, chances are, he spent a lot of time spacing out. The poetry and parables he spoke grew out of time spent contemplating the grains of sand under foot or watching the desert shift in color as the sun crossed the sky. His capacity to love was honed by his practice of noticing and noting the world around him.
I’m taking some moments for boredom during this Lent, for staring out the window, for letting the anxious thoughts in my head run out of energy, for putting down my phone, for waiting on the brilliant One to speak into these 40 days.
Will you join me?
Sarah Henkel is the Cross-Cultural Catalyst for Hudson River Presbytery. Staring out her window she has a beautiful snow-covered view of the White Plains Presbyterian Church where she serves as Parish Associate for Outreach.