The television and internet are designed to hold our attention. Have you ever noticed how sometimes it’s difficult to turn away? How you keep surfing channels or sites, looking for entertainment long after you’ve said there’s nothing of value there?
More and more people are taking “social media breaks” where they quit for a couple of hours or even a couple of days. All because they are aware that the pull to constantly check for status updates and read notifications is eating away at their precious time.
— itchbay (@itchbay) November 30, 2015
I haven’t quite gotten to around to something that drastic but I feel like I’m ready to try it. Ever since the autumnal equinox I’ve tried to spend the half hour around sunset each night sitting in my living room with lighted candle and a book, welcoming the darkness while I carry the light inside. It’s a ceremony I started last year and one that has given me a sense of peace and connection with the earth and the seasons and my place in both.
But even so, my typical week only sees me making two trips downstairs in the late afternoon. Because of the near-compulsion to be online to read more, watch more, connect more, even as I know I actually need to disconnect more.
That’s why I cherish Advent and Lent and the activities related to prayer and contemplation associated with both. This year I will be following AdventWord, if not always here, at least always on social media.
After lighting the first candle in the beautiful advent wreath my mother gave me (and taking a picture for social media, of course), I set down my phone and sat quietly for 10 minutes, thinking about the word for today, #WakeUp, and what it means to me.
To wake up, we first have to realize we’ve been asleep. As we come into consciousness, we leave the world of dreams and enter the world of action. We tell people to “wake up and smell the coffee” as a way to get them to see the truth about a situation. In the social justice arena, we implore folks “Stay Woke” once they’ve been able to realize the truth about how the world works, as a reminder to not slip back into habitual thinking and acting.
I admit I am not a devout Christian by anyone’s standard. If anything, I am a lapsed agnostic. My faith and spirituality doesn’t fit neatly into any of the boxes I’ve come across, and instead I’ve taken it upon myself to create my own. But even so, there a times when I find the traditions of the church I grew up in to be a valuable tool for expressing my beliefs. The rituals of reflection and prayer around Advent and Lent are especially resonant for me, coming at times in the year when such activities are welcome as a quiet space in an otherwise hectic schedule.
Advent is a time of preparation. Not just a pre-Christmas warm-up, but a time to create a space for the message and meaning of Christ’s coming. It is a time for me to reflect on what that message means to me and how I can actively live it out. Meditation and prayer are not simply one-way communications with the divine, they are part of an active and on-going conversation, filled with hope, motivation, support, and most importantly, guidance on how to be an agent for love and kindness in the world. A prayer without action is simply words — powerless, impotent, nothing more than noise. We must recognize that a prayer is a call to action. We must be the ones to carry it out into the world. To make it happen.
The command to “Wake Up” is a call to step out of our comfortable bubble and look around us. Where are we needed? Where can we help?
There are many in positions of power who would prefer we stayed asleep — unquestioning, uninterested, and uninvolved. The work to divide us, fostering hate and deception, and rewarding ignorance. They lie and tell us to fear differences, to fear change, to fear the “other.” Tragically, too many too often use Jesus’s name to do so.
As a progressive Christian, as lax as I am, it is my prayer that we can find a way to overcome that fear and hatred and replace them with love and kindness. It is my duty to make it so.