I grasped the uniquely knobby VW shifter, thrust it into passing gear, and slipped delicately within a nook tucked tightly between two 18-Wheelers, whose inhospitality quickly nudged me into the passing lane, the wide openness of which beckoned me on a swift westward journey across the State of Tennessee highways. With time abundant, I tossed my mobile tether to the passenger seat and summoned old friends, John Hiatt, Chris Knight and Robert Earl Keen, to keep me company along the way.
As the mellifluous apparition settled in the seat beside me, his croaky voice crossing muddy waters, a cacophonous tone pierced the canorous ambiance, the VW screaming for the dusty troubadour to secure his safety harness. As I gazed into the glowing warning lamp casting a menacingly red hue throughout the dusky cabin, and with my head slumped in shame, I reached across to latch the seat belt around the behemoth beside me, its girth pressing into the faux leather seat, and snuffed out the intrusive illumination with an unsatisfactory click.
Reclining against the ludicrousness, I reflected on the image of the overbearing tool of distraction and intermediation strapped beside me, which called into question the direction of humanity. A tool loved as equally as hated, a facilitator of continuous connectedness, morphed into a kidnapper of presence, a robber of intimacy and experience.
As hostages take periodic peeks over the tops of their devices at televisions blaring nonsense, as they tweet about the nonsense they are only half-watching, as they sit among family and friends typing fervently away unaware of the conversation, as they mumble “Hmm?” in response to their kids’ quests for their attention, as they prioritize electronic alerts over people they are with, the hostages are never fully present in either of the worlds vying for their attention.
As time passes and brunette fades to grey, might those missed moments of presence mean more than all of their captivity combined? Will any of the hostage’s five thousand followers take him by the hand in prayer when a loved one is lost? Will parents regret not having enjoyed more online time before their children left the nest? Was the conversation interrupted and missed less valuable than the email checked?
We are willingly, even if unwittingly, wisked away from the present, flesh and bone replaced with metal and glass. Just as a perpetuated fib grows larger and larger, so grows the kidnapper of our souls as we misplace more and more value in it. Mine has reached the point of requiring its own seat belt. Embarrassing enough as that may be, do I let it grow any bigger?
Does your mobile device require its own seat belt? If it does, what about shutting it down and enjoying being present in the moment you are in, enjoying the fellowship of those around you, and letting those around you know they are more valuable than metal and glass?
How about helping your kids learn to respect and value those who surround them by shutting off their devices while in these intimate moments?
How about leading a good example for others?
Perhaps it is not too late to stop the ever growing menace from reaching such height of worship that VW not only requires it to be safely restrained but also protects it with a personalized air bag. Isn’t that a next logical step considering the priority many place in their mobile devices over in-person human companionship?