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Depth in Life

While the discussions on climate change continue to become more noticeable and, I suggest, more demanding that each of us participate, I try to be aware of where things are going.  If it were not so serious, I would be tempted to say this is very interesting.  Since it is serious, we probably are better off saying this is very scary.  Of course, it is difficult to convince people my age to be worried.  We know we will be gone before we have to pay the price.

It is my ability to write those last couple statements that make the whole climate change discussion a spiritual issue, among other things.  The spiritual side will not always be part of the discussions, but I argue they should be.  And I am in good company.  Pope Francis would agree.  In fact the Pope tried very hard to make that happen.  When he issued the encyclical, Laudato Sí, he wanted not only to say the climate change was so important, everyone had to be in the conversation, but he also wanted to say the spirituality component had to be part of the discussion.

Pope Francis insists the issue with the climate threat is not just a world problem.  It is a human problem.  It is with that latter issue---the human problem---that I am enjoying working my way through the document.  In one sense the encyclical is not only about climate concerns.  The Pope is also addressing what I will call human concerns.  One really interesting place this theme appears is in those sections where Pope Francis discusses technology.

Certainly no one can think about the technological prowess of our modern world and not be impressed.  A whole book can be written about the computer and its role in the modern world.  But the Pope reminds us, technology is not simply a positive thing.  In effect there is a beauty and the beast quality to technology.  And this is where the human concern comes to the fore.

To put it simply, the human concern takes on new shades of complexity because of technology.  I can be personal by thinking about my own life in terms of technology.  I used to have a great deal of quiet time simply because that is the way the world was.  Compare that to my life today with computer, cell phone, television and the list goes on.  Not only do I have a phone, but the phone can play movies, play my kind of music on demand, let me talk to people half way round the world and even more.  It is really easy no longer to have any quiet time.

This brings me to a couple lines in the papal encyclical.  The Pope is not against technology.  He specifies that he does not “reject the possibilities which technology continues to offer us.”  But then…  The Pope continues with the next sentence.  “But humanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction.  It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life.”  When I read these two sentences, I nodded my head in agreement.

Humanity has changed profoundly.  I have change profoundly.  I don’t have to compare myself to some medieval guy.  I am not the same person I was at age twenty or forty.  And I am not speaking just of getting older.  I think the danger is I can become more superficial.  Of course, I can be very busy---even in my leisure.  Often speed is the currency of technology.

I think being busy masks the threat of superficiality.  Tacitly we can assume if we are busy, we can’t be superficial.  Just think of how many Facebook friends I have or Twitter followers!  On the other hand I suspect technology allows us to mask any corrosive boredom.

We have three hundred cable channels; who could be bored!  Too often both busyness and boredom are symptoms of a life lacking depth.  And technology does not produce depth.  Indeed, it can determine your DNA or image your brain, but it cannot produce depth.

I would argue that is a primary quest of the spiritual journey.  A spiritual journey is the creation and cultivation of a deep life.  It is a journey of the heart.  For me it is a journey into the heart of God.  The heart of God is where we discover or rediscover depth in life.  It is the place for our heart-to-heart encounter with the Source and Resource of it all.

This deep place is the place of love and of meaning.  Busy lives and bored lives usually do not have much love or meaning.  Both of those take time---soul time.  Technology is not designed to offer soul time.  That’s up to me.  I know for myself soul time calls for some detaching and for some discipline.  I need to detach from technology and make time and space for the Source of life to resource me---again and again.

I know I am capable of making soul time to rediscover depth in life.  But I am not always willing.  Perhaps I need to re-word the Lord’s Prayer: “lead me not into technological temptation.”  To experience depth in life, we need to empty out the superficialities that cover over the path to a deep life.  

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