Cat Videos, Pope Francis, and Lessons Learned from my Cell Phone

Pope Francis recently said that when people don’t put down their phones in the home, it is the start of a war. “When there’s no dialogue at home when we’re at the table and instead of talking everyone is on their phone … it’s the start of war because there is no dialogue.”

Lately, I’ve been privileged with the opportunity to put Simon down to sleep at night. He is nine months old so this usually involves changing him into pajamas, letting him play for a bit, and then feeding him a bottle while rocking him to sleep. This was usually Gillian’s domain because she loved nursing him to sleep. But, a couple weeks ago we decided it was best we share that responsibility.

Honestly, I’m very glad we decided to do that. Like most, I’m gone at work for the majority of the day, so the only time I can hold and interact with Simon is at bedtime. I’ve noticed, though, that once he is dozing off I reach for my phone because what else am I supposed to do while sitting in the quiet?

The other night I was holding Simon in such a way that prohibited me from grabbing my phone. I was left with two options. Either I move him into a more conducive position at the risk of waking him or I sit in the dark holding him without reading my phone.

No one will deny the enticing prospect of scrolling through your Facebook feed when it is quiet and there is seemingly nothing else to do. Nevertheless, I didn’t move him and I didn’t reach for my phone. In the words of Robert Frost, I took the road less traveled, and that made all the difference.

As I sat lamenting about all of the cat videos I could be watching, I started down a dangerous path of thought. Why is my urge to look at my phone so strong? Why can’t I just sit here in the quiet? Is Facebook more valuable to me than enjoying these few precious moments with my son?

Pope Francis recently said that when people don’t put down their phones in the home, it is the start of a war. “When there’s no dialogue at home when we’re at the table and instead of talking everyone is on their phone … it’s the start of war because there is no dialogue.”[1]

But how can cat videos start a war? Surely Pope Francis is not looking at my Facebook timeline!

The heart of Pope Francis’ comment, of course, is that we should intentionally engage in the reality around us before losing ourselves in the digital reality of our phone. He reminds us that being human is a real experience and not a digital one. If we lose ourselves in the digital world, we may forget the common humanity we all share.

After coming to terms with sitting in the quiet of my son’s room phone-less, I leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I became aware of my son’s soft breaths, the creaking of the rocker every time I leaned back, and the cold air on my feet as it was the only part of my body not covered in a blanket.

As I rocked back and forth, I heard Gillian working on the dishes then a little later start her homework. I thought of all those nights she sat in this very chair listening to me clean the kitchen then move to other chores. There was an intimacy in that as I became aware of our shared experience.

It is possible I would have heard all of that while I was scrolling through Facebook on my phone but so often, our phone is what we use to hide away from the sights and sounds of daily life. They can also, unintentionally, pull us away from ourselves to a point where in those quiet moments it is uncomfortable to simply sit and be.

What happens when we stop talking with ourselves? Do we become unaware of the struggles that rage within? Or of the greatness that lies within? As I mindlessly scroll on Facebook and compare my life to my friends’ lives, do I become ever more detached from the beautiful life I do have?

I won’t promise that every time I put my son down to sleep I won’t reach for my phone. But, before I do, I will try to sit and listen for a little while. The voice of my heart, the sounds of my home and the soft breath of my baby boy teach far greater truths about this human experience than my Facebook feed ever could. Even if those cat videos are really cute.

-Christian

[1] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/02/17/using-mobile-phones-dinner-table-start-war-says-pope-francis/

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s