Friday, October 07, 2011

Enter the World of Non-text

My back yard
In my philosophy classes I ban texting. I am teaching philosophy, with its complex, logical ways of thinking. What is needed is "attendance" in the sense of focus, "attending" to what I am saying. One cannot multitask and understand this stuff. While most students can refrain from multi-texting, occasionally one of them cannot. It happened last year. A young man repeatedly was texting while I was teaching. Each time I asked him not to text. Finally, I took him aside and said, "If you need to text, please leave the classroom. If you text again I am going to lower your grade." He looked at me and said, "I can't stop doing it."

I think he was right. He cannot stop texting because he has become neurally incapable of not texting. This is the culture we live in, and the kind of students we are increasingly getting in our universities.

This student, like many today, "submit[s] passively to the insatiable requriements of a society maddened by overstimulation and obsessed with the demons of noise, voyeurism, and speed." (Thomas Merton, Seeds of Destruction, 232)

What can rescue us from this? What is required today in order to discern culture and events? Needed are spiritual disciplines such as:
  • fasting (voluntary self-denial for the sake of attending only to God)
  • observing days of silence (enter the world of non-text)
  • living, often, in retreat from the world (so as to meanignfully re-engage with it)
  • getting alone with God (solitude)
Such meditative acts, writes Merton, rescue us from "the pressures, the exorbitant and tyrannical demands of a society that is violent because it is essentially greedy, lustful, and cruel."

Reacquire the lost, ancient spiritual practices.