Upon Acquisition of Even More Technology (prayer)

I am hardly a Luddite.

Yes, I raised my children without cable and without commercial television. Though this may seem “out there” to you, dear reader, there are countless people where I live, in our church community and in our hippy-dippy charter school community, who choose that lifestyle.

(That is not to say that we didn’t watch television. Let me tell you, I raised my children right! We watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Their first television series was Star Trek: The Next Generation, followed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All on DVD.)

I have a desktop computer at home and a laptop that travels with me between home, work, and school. Last summer, I invested in an iPad buoyed by the rationale that I was flying often to the West Coast to attend to my aging mother: carrying the weight of the laptop was burdensome. Plus, the uses of the iPad as a nursing home chaplain were myriad.

Yet, I have resisted acquiring a smartphone. Nowadays, most people I know have one; it does not seem to depend on class/socio-economic lines. I know a few people who, like me, have not made the shift. I used to know a handful of people who did not have any cell phone, but that number has dwindled to more or less none.

I have held firmly onto my dumbphone. It was enough for me a few years ago to manage the shift to texting with a QWERTY keyboarBest-Qwerty-keyboard-phone1-300x164d, rather than the outdated press the number three button three times to get the letter “f.”

Today I can no longer say that I have a dumb phone. I have joined the ranks of so many of you. Though it was not in the original plan, it was a wholly volitional act.

Despite its inconsequential heft in the palm of my hand, it is weighing heavily on me.

It weighs heavily because it is yet another way I do not live lightly on the earth.

I am apprehensive because I know that I will be enticed to join the legion of people who, instead of feeling mildly awkward in communal social situations, focus their eye gaze on the magic screen in their hands, rather than at the sunset or the swoosh of the oncoming train or at another mildly awkward nearby human being who holds vast sums of Unknown and Mystery and Delight and Angst and Possible Kindred.

It will tempt and taunt me with its aural and visual alerts that swear their utmost need of my attention *RIGHT NOW* though their allegiance is suspect. I am pretty darn sure that it is not to my betterment or wholeness, but is on the side of consumption and distraction.

Of course, my new smartphone is an inanimate object. It has no loyalties. Though every buzz and tremble associated with all the cool apps I can download are connected to some enterprise intent on making a profit and involving me (or at least my personal data) in that process, they are not sentient.

They hold no power over me that I do not give them.

It is like what a wise friend wrote on my Facebook wall, after I had shared my confusingly deep dismay for my new toy tool. She wrote,

I like my smart phone and use it a lot for work. I got rid of our land line. Now, when I come home, instead of checking messages, etc, I get the snail mail, I hang up car keys, I hug my child, rub my dogs ears and take off for a walk! My smart phone is an alarm clock, a calculator, etc. but it knows its place!

It knows its place. My guess is the power comes not from it knowing its place, but from my friend knowing its place. May I, too, know the proper place of this powerful device.

For it is powerful. And it can be used for righteous means. As my friend and colleague, Theresa, reminded me, there are people, sick and disabled, for whom “those alerts are about access and connection. The phone itself serves as a communication platform in several ways….sometimes those phones are making a physical actual difference for people.”

A Prayer for Skillful Use of a Smartphone

May I know the good fortune that comes from possession of such an elegant, complex machine that fits in the palm of my hand.

May I show humility in the face of all that it can do.

May I appreciate all the good it makes possible and all the ways it enriches lives.

May I be wary of all the time it doth suck.

May I use this device to tap into and strengthen the interconnected web of all existence, rather than to add to its unraveling.

May I demonstrate the discipline to know when to disconnect, that it not lead to my ignoring other people, Nature, or my own heart’s true needs.

May I never check an alert while eating a meal, talking with a loved one, or during a movie at the cinema.

May this device increase my access to the Black Twitterverse and other forms of emerging social activisms that let me know the fuller truth and more complete reality.

May I regularly express my deep appreciation for the renewal of lapsed friendships and the establishment of new associations yet to be embodied facilitated by this medium.

May I never share a post without first going to Snopes.

May I always use these superpowers for good.

Thank you Facebook friends – Heather, Molly, and John/JP – whose ideas were incorporated into the above prayer with their permission.

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