Ruminations on Distraction and Knowledge

“Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.” (Proverbs 4:25)

I find that I am losing the taste for many of the distractions that I used to think made me happy.  In particular, I’ve felt like a slave to screen-based devices.

I have struggled with internet addiction for years. Having a powerful computer in my pocket that can connect to the internet anywhere in the world, and fetch for me any type of entertainment or information in the world, makes me feel smarter than I really am.  I think that’s part of the appeal of our “smart” phones: they make us feel powerful. We brim with the knowledge that we can access, instead of seeking to broaden the knowledge within our own limited minds. Hardly anyone even bothers to say “I don’t know,” these days, because they can just look up an answer in a moment, regurgitate it, and then forget about it. New knowledge hardly sets down on the surface of our minds, and then is swept away by the incoming tide of new knowledge.

Why bother seeking knowledge and understanding of the world around us when we can find any information we seek at a moment’s notice?

When our curiosity is so easily satisfied, I wonder if its depth becomes limited? When we seek knowledge about a subject with our heart’s curiosity, and we dedicate ourselves to understanding a subject fully, we explore that subject in the context of the world, and in our minds. This is how true understanding is gained. We study, we internalize, we experiment and test. In the context of this writing, I’m talking about deepening our relationship with God, but the principle holds true for all subjects: biology, music, literature, et cetera.

Said another way: is our reliance on the internet impeding our ability to understand subjects more fully?

These past few days, when I pick up my phone to open Twitter or Reddit or check the box scores from last night’s basketball games, I touch them for a moment before realizing that they will not satisfy me.  Then I put the phone down. It’s a bit of a relief, actually.  Right now, those things don’t matter to me, perhaps because in a broader context, they don’t matter at all.  (Of course, I’m sure that once the playoffs start, those box scores will be of great social and political import.)

I do remember the last time I truly sought knowledge and understanding, and committed myself to it–and I can remember the time before that as well.  The former started this week, when I picked up the Book, and began to internalize some of the lessons.  My life is changed, because it has changed the way I see the world, and my own place in it. The time before that was about six years ago, when I picked up a different book, one about woodworking, and was inspired by the text and by the meaning behind it. That changed my life as well, because it changed my worldview and opened my mind to an aspect of the discipline I had never even considered.

In both of those cases, I sought depth of knowledge, and I took my time to understand and adopt the knowledge. I used it to foster growth within myself, and that deep understanding changed my life, both spirit and secular.

Prayer for the evening:

Lord, please steady my gaze away from distractions that would seek to divert my path from the plan you have for me.


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