I have a weekly commute to London. It keeps me in touch with the general populace in this part of the world. A populace drawn into their own personal smartphone screen.
Music. Emails. Instant Messaging. Interminable Indulgent Instagram. Social Media. Less and less (thankfully) those intrusive “Can you hear me?” phone-calls on (what used to be called) mobile telephones. Voice calls much less popular now keyboard and lens replaces the need for actually speaking.
And the biggest draw of these wonderful gadgets … ?
We can all look down. We can avoid the need to pretend we are alone. Avoid the discomfort of not making eye contact. Avoid all the embarrassment of not having to speak to someone face-to-face (or kneecap-to-kneecap).
I remember my younger sister commuting regularly in London years ago (before smartphones). She reported how wonderful it was to see so many people praying for such extended periods. She couldn’t comprehend that closing one’s eyes when commuting in cramped spaces was simply the accepted way of avoiding eye-contact. I still chuckle remembering her face when she found out that praying wasn’t such a common occurrence in The City after all!
My Godmother’s husband was a chatterer. An embarrassment.
In any situation he would strike up a conversation. Loudly. What we (used to) think of as “The American Way”.
That genetic malady which ignores everyone else’s comfort zones … which rides roughshod over others’ expected-and-defended “personal space”.
But the odd thing was that the majority of those who suffered this intrusion seemed to enjoy the experience.
We just cringed in the background. With a little envy.
And as I look out and see the headlines … the (current) forensic analysis of the (another) horrific terrorist attack on London Bridge … the repeated claim of (all) government who have “allocated £xxm in additional funding” (to fix every problem raised) … the noise of right and wrong (as we reduce our planet to one giant overflowing rubbish bin) … the permanent public arena of “gladiatorial protagonists” spewed out for our entertainment in news and “social meeja” … the increasing and inextricable “looking down” and away from so much that unites us …
I wonder what other species is quite so self-absorbed.
I wonder how we have detached ourselves from who we really are. How we made “religion” just another science. How we made science just another “god”. How we manage to convince ourselves that “being connected” (to this wonderful self-healing-home) is no longer relevant to us.
Us the alpha species … the species no longer a “species” … a “species” now having outgrown itself. Now entitled … now complacent … now detached from the very connection that gave birth to each of us … on this planet that nurtures us … that heals us simply by the sound of a breeze – the sight of all those stars – the smell of freshly cut grass – the taste of cold icy water. These simple things that connect us – heal our restlessness – our searching – our very souls.
I wonder what other species despises its own kind so much that it chooses to look down … chooses to detach … chooses to “talk” to someone on the other side of the world (in preference to someone sitting right next to me).
Is it fear – and if so of what? And if it isn’t fear then … what? Arrogance? Entitlement? Ignorance? That “you aren’t interesting enough” … ?
What is it that means we each choose to look down more and more?
That (default) looking down when “talking” to the being who is loved and loves. The default (of “worship”) that is now the default for (“talking” to) everybody. The default “nice smile” that is the default for everyone in every (unexciting) conversation.
I think church has a very important role to play in the world today.
A role to encourage “looking up” as THE default. Making eye-contact as THE default. Finding excitement in the ordinary (that is each of us) as THE default. Drawing ALL together as THE ONLY default.
(because the preaching of correctness … of sin … of
division salvation … of judgment salvation …. is the default of looking down)
And “the default” of looking up can only start by looking God in the eye. By not bitching about sin all the time. By making Love the beginning AND middle AND end of ALL conversations. Real love. Unconditional love. Inclusive love.
Love without the small print of religion and “correct (rule littered) teaching”.
We need to teach THE default of looking up.
Because if the church really is “the people” …
We are ALL “the people”!