I have been meaning to do a post like this for a while, but I kept putting it off……but two things happened this week that finally gave me the impetus to reflect on the effect that technology has on our interaction with the wider community.

1) While hanging out with milady on Sunday, I accidentally left my Ipod and headphones in the back of her car.

Since she works most of the week, and we only get to see each other on days-off, that meant I had three to spend three days without portable music, and no wi-fi connection at my fingertips. 😦

2) I finished reading Digital Disciple by Adam Thomas. In this short book, the author explores both the pros and cons of living in a world permeated by social networking, online gaming and Google searches that take mere fractions of a second.

He writes with a central question in mind: What does all this Tech (and its consequences) have for followers of Jesus Christ?

With these two events coinciding, I was forced to reflect on my own use of technology…..and more especially the power my Ipod gives me to ignore the world around me.

For those of you who don’t know…..I work part-time as a street pastor for one of the churches here in London. Basically, this job involves entering into pastoral relationships with people who find themselves homeless or (as is more often the case) those who are making a very limited income.

The government pensions that they are given are high enough that they can afford to live somewhere, but there is no guarantee that a) the living conditions they can afford are healthy for their well-being or that b) there is enough disposable income left to afford basic needs like food and clothing.

Normally, I go out for about 2-3 hours on any given day and scoot around the downtown area and the East End….listening to the lives and witness of these folks. If the situation calls for it, it is also my job to direct them towards services that they inquire about, or might be able to make use of.

What struck me over this past week….is that the Ipod allows me to dictate when I will listen and when I won’t. Having my ginormous headphones on signifies to most folks that my ability to listen is gone….or at the very least, occupied in another activity. It allows me to close my ears to the cry of the poor….and I openly wonder if that’s a good thing.

In the days of the Walkman and CD player, my ability to block out the world only lasted for as long as the AAA batteries kept running. After those two or three hours, I was forced to either go to the dollar store and get some more, or put the Walkman away and resume my “normal” life of interacting with people 1:1

Now….. with batteries and smart-phones that last the whole day, the option to engage with the world, or to drown it out becomes a conscious choice.

In the three days that I had without music, I found myself surrounded by snippets of conversation. Instead of my favourite tracks by DMB, my ears were filled with the loud drilling and hammering of the construction crews. Instead of contemplating the Gospel through a podcast, I found myself open to more encounters with those on the sidewalk.

I have no real end-point or conclusion to this post/reflection……but I thought it was important to throw it out there as both an observation for myself and–potentially–a chance for us collectively to think about: what distracts us from being disciples??? …..Leave a comment on this post with some of your thoughts. As always, I look forward to some discussion. +

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