Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Reflections on a Lent Without Facebook, II

Darwin wrote about being off Facebook for Lent. My own perspective is similar: I felt that online interaction was taking up too much mental and spiritual space, and wanted to pull back for forty days, and I've found it very beneficial. But I haven't had the same results as he has, in regards to productivity.

I'm not one to have a lot of background sound: music, TV, podcasts, etc. My life, perhaps, has enough background noise. And yet, Facebook was serving as background noise for me -- something that filled the empty time. I tended to scroll a good deal while nursing the baby. I haven't stopped nursing the baby, but now I tend to do it in silence.

The result of cutting out online chatter has been a great mental and spiritual silence. Not the silence of dryness, but of peace. I'm not meditating on other people's drama, or composing my next clever status. I'm quiet.

Along with the quiet has come a sort of forced inactivity. Baby is working hard on making the transition from infant to toddler. He crawls and pulls up and cruises. He needs to be watched constantly because he's ever putting things in his mouth, and this is a Lego-rich environment. Time that I had been spending holding him in an arm while clicking around is now spent on more direct supervision, because you can't trust the guy's judgment. In addition, he's gone from having not a tooth in his head to sporting two fine pearly whites, and he's presently in a great deal of agitation about his emerging top teeth. Yesterday and today in particular have been days of intensive baby soothing, as he whimpers and flails and tantrums over the unhappy lumps in his mouth where that top tooth is going to break through any day now. Baby is my job right now, and all other jobs have to be put on the back burner. Writing has fallen by the wayside, and so has reading almost anything but what's within arm's reach of the bed or chair that I happen to be nursing him in. For the past two weeks, I've read almost nothing but my Bible and my grandfather's collection of Rex Stout's mystery novels.

This all comes at a time when I've suddenly acquired several writing projects besides my ever-present novel revisions. These projects involve deadlines, and one even is for pay. Baby is absorbing much of my free time, and generally puts me to bed each night. How and where will I find the time to get my work done?

These questions agitate me much less than they ought, perhaps. It seems somehow fitting that the last days of Lent should bring an intensification of my Lenten retreat, in ways I didn't count on. Giving up Facebook has been almost too easy. I've neither missed it nor been once tempted to log on. Giving up the time I thought I'd gained for myself has been more of a dying to self. But these few days before Easter have become a time of waiting. It seems right that I'm suspended in anticipation. Everything is poised for action, but the moment isn't now, and the timing isn't mine to choose.

Spiritual warfare isn't the first lens I reach for to view the world, but it also seems as if temptations and trying circumstances are pressing in more keenly here at the finish. Temptation is, in a way, a gift: a chance to assess where you're weakest by observing at which point the enemy thinks he has an opening. Better yet if you can remember, in the midst of it, that it is an temptation and not an imperative, lest you look back and realize, "Well, shoot, I failed that test." I don't have to be strong enough to fight temptation without God's help. I'm often tripped up by forgetting that. If temptation causes me to rely on God's strength and not my own, then it is a gift.

Like Darwin, I need to figure out my plan for engaging with social media post-Lent. I don't want to cut off a valuable avenue of communication with many friends. At the same time, I don't want to be sucked into the whirlpool of everyone sounding off about cultural and political agitation that seems expressly fomented for the purpose of being clickbait. In the past weeks, as I've lived outside the echo chamber of hashtag campaigns, I've fought and witnessed the real-life battles of humility and dying to self that come every day with family and parish life, no less important for being small and mostly unattested. In writing my letters for Lent, I've had the space to listen to the prompting of the Spirit as to what to write, the pleasure of knowing that I was making direct contact with another person individually, and the humility that comes of pouring yourself out without the instant gratification of response, or the need for response at all. It was a valuable and enjoyable exercise I'd like to sustain.

As we move into the Triduum, I'll be praying about what boundaries to draw to maintain the peace and internal silence of a social media fast while preserving valuable friendships.

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