Sometimes I like being out of touch. In fact, I like it enough that I've gotten rid of my cell phone–I wasn't feeling comfortable any more with the idea of having to be responsive to whoever chose to call whenever they chose to call. We human beings have gotten by pretty well for a very long time without having the ability to call home to ask what flavor of ice cream we should buy at the store, and I want to keep getting by without having a device that keeps me tied to other people for no real reason.
Now if I or my wife were seriously ill, then I’d have a cell phone. In a case like that, it seems that the benefits of getting news quickly far exceeds the loss of my ability to be alone when I want to be. And there are those who would argue that I could just turn the phone off if I wanted to. But then my question would be why I was paying a company fifty dollars a month for something that I usually turned off anyway?
People are becoming addicted to these devices and the idea of being able to reach other people at any time. Students at school check their screens every two or three minutes to see if they have any new text messages–keeping their focus far away from the lesson at hand. It seems to be getting harder and harder for people to spend time alone, either by choice or even not by choice. For me, though, my time alone is among the most precious time of my life, for it’s then that I do some of my best reflection, some of my best thinking. It’s then when I feel connections to the world around me, to nature and to life and to God.
I was at a wedding on the west coast once with someone from the east coast. She had her cell phone with her, and her husband–who tends to be a controlling, insecure person–called her just about every hour. So every hour her focus shifted from where she was, in a new and completely different environment, back home to her husband. She didn't have much of a chance at all to give her undivided attention to experiencing the new place, and she left not knowing much at all about where she’d been, but knowing almost every detail of what her husband had done during her three days away.
Sometimes we just think that we need something. Especially if we’re paying for it, for then our need justifies the cost. But do we really need to be able to be in touch with others all the time? Or do we need to be by ourselves every once in a while to get in touch with the deeper parts of ourselves? Who knows–it may even be a good thing that you have the chance to choose whatever flavor of ice cream you want. Making decisions like that help us to develop problem-solving skills and help us to learn to think through things. People have been buying groceries for years without having a phone to check with someone else, and when all is said and done, they got by just fine, didn't they?
All our miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.