For I have … sinned?

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Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. Gravely.

My last confession was about two years ago and these are my sins. Well, more accurately, this is my sin — singular. Trust me, it’s a big enough one to fill up an entire confession all on its own.

I really don’t know where to begin. That’s because I think I may have even committed multiple Deadly Sins — probably about five of the seven — all in this singular act.

My son, my son. Surely it can’t be that bad.

Yes it is, Padre. Trust me.

Which five do you think you’ve committed, son?

DSC_7239How about this list: envy, gluttony, greed, sloth and lust?, I murmered — my voice now quivering.

Tell me more, the now perplexed man of the cloth uttered. How could you have committed so many transgressions with just one act?

Well, I recounted, I’ve been envious of and lusted after others who’ve had this item; I’ve been both greedy with and gluttonous in my consumption of it once I obtained it. And, the sloth? That’s easy, because it’s all consuming now that it is in my life.

Even worse, my transgression goes beyond just me. By ravenously devouring this, I feel I’m contributing negatively to the natural order of things — to the way things are supposed to be — in society as a whole.

Will God punish me severely, I asked sheepishly? Or, at least give me five hours in Purgatory or maybe make me spend time watching reruns of Gigli or something equally horrid?

My son, my son — you are here, aren’t you? You’re recognizing what you believe to be your shortcomings, you’re ardently sorry and you want to do better, right?

Well, yes. I do. I really do.

Well then God has already forgiven you. Now, tell me, what is this thing that has caused you such pain, young man?

DSC_7214Well, I bought a new phone.

You bought a new phone? That’s not a sin. How could that be so bad?

You see, Father, my spirit is willing, but my digital flesh is weak. It’s the new iPhone 6. I just bought it after lusting after others’ enjoyment of it.

Okay, he said curiously, I can see how people can be consumed and taken with all the media hype behind this technology, and I commend you for recognizing and admitting it at an individual level. But you also mentioned how this contributes negatively to society as a whole… how is that so?

Well, Padre, I’ve just moved here to Seattle where, for the first time in my life, I now take the bus to work. And then, one day on my way into work — a day in which I wanted to make a simple phone call — I couldn’t believe how quiet it was, even though there had to be at least 75 others crammed sardine-like into this commuting vessel cruising through Seattle’s midtown.

While punching in the numbers, I instantly became extremely self-conscious since nobody was talking. Nobody at all. It was surreal. And then it hit me.

My looming phone conversation, it seemed, would have been violently out of today’s norm. Not accepted. Not wanted, in fact.

It would break today’s collective social contract of making zero noise, zero conversation — even on a phone, let alone talking to the person next to me — in front of all these people on the bus.

Everybody’s head was either buried into their lap or out the window — all with their thumbs frantically banging out some no doubt meaningless text, fondling their Facebook app or Googling and ogling some podcast, Justin Bieber track or YouTube cat video.

They were all caught up in their iPhones, iPads, iConsciousnesses — whatever you want to iCall it. It was a sea of white earbuds and white noise, but nothing else.

Did I mention there werDSC_7199e 75 of us?

And here’s the worst part: I was contributing to this societal degradation by lusting after this piece of technology before I had it and then gleefully devouring it once it was in my greedy little hands.

I was part of the problem!

All these people and zero conversation — it was the rhetorical equivalent of the Springsteen song Fifty-seven Channels and There’s Nothing On. Only, in this case, the numbers would be transposed and it could’ve been slugged Seventy-five People and Nobody’s Talking.

So, I continued confessing — or really, lamenting — both the act of wanting the phone and, once I got it, the act of using it in a way that negatively contributed to God’s natural order desiring human beings to acknowledge each other’s existence at some level just has to be a sin, right?

Well, my son, I don’t think …

I interrupted further: Father, what’s happened to us all? Why are we so self-focused, so self-ish, so internal? Why don’t we press the rhetorical flesh of others through social intercourse. Oh, sorry about that word, but you get my point: Why can’t people just talk to each other anymore?

Didn’t God design us to communicate, and don’t we all lose something when don’t? And, isn’t communicating part of the contract that Adam and Eve signed when God gave them two ears and one mouth — no doubt instructing them to use these gifts in more or less that proportion?

When I was growing up, the bus — especially the school bus — was one of the noisiest places on earth. There was a different social contract then — a different collective understanding — that it was okay to engage another human being at a visceral, tactile and yes, a spoken level.

But no more.

DSC_5953What troubles me even further, Father, is the lesson this teaches my little girls. I want them to be able to have the skills and confidence to strike up a simple conversation with others. Even people they don’t know. Even on a bus.

I know this may sound overly dramatic, but how can I teach their impressionable minds to engage, to talk and to experience completeness of the rhetorical banquet that God seemingly clearly wanted us to have. Won’t they just be tempted to just get lost in some tech- text- and screen-driven black hole of a conversation-less existence?

Why do they call it social media anyway? It’s anything but.

Okay, okay — I get it, uttered the now exhausted cleric, wiping his religious brow. Can I talk now? You communication professionals do like to spin stories, don’t you?

Good thing you’re not paying me by the hour. Or by the word. Or by the sin.

DSC_6747I’m beginning to understand your epic confessional saga and why you viewed the simple act of wanting, buying and then using this technology as a less-than-desirable trait.

Look, he said, you’re right. God did give us the wonderful gifts of verbosity, rhetoric and things oratorical — and we should use them to impact others in meaningful ways that bring us closer to each other, and to God.

Now that you’ve taken this journey and come to this realization, you are the better for it. As the Gospel of Matthew states: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

As for your sins — including, as you say, some of the ‘deadly’ ones — they’re not that bad after all, especially in context of how you grew closer to God because of this realization.

As for your girls, you’re a smart guy and you and your wife are already raising them well. I’m confident that you can and will teach them good communication habits, helping them engage at a meaningful level with others in spite of all the tech-driven temptations they’ll experience.

DSC_6737Impact them at the emotional and logical levels simply by being a good example. Show them how to not let technology negatively influence their relationships. Show them the benefits of the kind of communication that inspires, that entertains, that moves others, that makes us human. Trust me: they’re smart enough and they’ll get it.

Great, Father. You’ve eased my mind and my conscience tremendously. But what about my penance, I asked. What should that be?

“Oh yes,” he added as he marked my forehead with the sign of the cross, signaling the end of my confession. “Just text me three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys.”

4 thoughts on “For I have … sinned?

  1. Oh, Doug. How true, how true. I have been lamenting about our lack of conversation so much I think my friends are getting tired of hearing me talk about it. I am tired of seeing people glued to their little machines. Doesn’t matter where you go, you see it. Marilynn

  2. Great story – love the punch line! Raising a mellinial (14yr old) girl, i can attest to what you witnessed and for whats coming. We can raise our kids to communicate freely and with respect – but if the person they are trying to communicate to respends with their ‘reply’ mechanism, its the norm.

  3. “Reality is not transcendent, but social and performative.” I was just reading about metamodernism and people turning into, dare I say it, human robots. Posted an Huff Post article on my Facebook (the irony) – but you should check it out. I have faith in you and your kids as future communicators. Silence ain’t golden where we’re were from. “You got that.”

  4. When you wrote “Seattle” I immediately thought of Fr Ryan and St James Cathedral, where my husband and I sang in the choir. Then, the pictures! Such a beautiful and holy place. Thank you. Lovely post.

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