Thursday, September 8, 2016

books: the new punk rock of our modern era

Have you ever posted something on social media and then been surprised that so many people liked it and shared it? This was the photo and the text of my post: 

"All of my kids are readers. Sometimes people ask how we "made that happen". I don't think we "tried" to make it happen, exactly, but I do believe some intentional choices opened the door to reading as a way of life in our home: 
1. We go to the library every week and check out 30-60 books. 
2. We limit screen time to 2 hours per week for each child. 
3. We read aloud to our kids as a regular family activity. 
4. We play a lot of board games, which extends their attention spans
5. We have books in absolutely every room of the house. 
6. We talk about the books we read at dinner, so that we can share the stories that are influencing be us.
Raising readers isn't rocket science, but it does require our direct involvement as parents. Anyone can do it, and it is SO WORTH IT"

To be honest, I generally feel like most people don't worry about reading, or value it all that much. Electronics have replaced books as the best way to spend our free time. When I am in restaurants and stores, and even at the park, many children and adults I see are on devices, and I almost never see books in anyone's hands. Mostly, I see a sea of phones and tablets. There are even two girls in our neighborhood who ride their bikes to school while watching shows on their phones, which are mounted on the handlebars of their bikes. This seems typical to me, and although dangerous, the tide of our culture is pulling us all toward an addiction to devices.

Our family carries books everywhere, and it is because we love to read, but it is also because reading is our defiant way of saying No to electronics all day every day. Books are the punk rock of our modern era; they are our way of rejecting the excesses of our mainstream media culture.

When we hold books above media, we are holding an opportunity to start a revolution in our lives and homes.

sometimes leave my phone at home when we run errands because I want to feel the freedom of being unreachable. My kids have no devices of their own. If they are bored at the doctor's office, their sister's ballet recital, or in the middle of Costco, they pull out a book and read. If they don't have a book, they just wait miserably for the boring thing to be over. This is one of the ways my overly comfortable, first-world children are learning about suffering in life. 

As a society, we are losing that ability to endure a lull in brain stimulation. But we actually don't need constant activity and multitasking to survive. We can just sit there and think about things, let our minds wander, imagine new creative projects, or simply listen to our internal voice. I realize this sounds crazy. But it's true.

When I tell people that one of our goals is for our family to spend as little time as possible in front of TVs and screens, mostly I feel like they are appalled. I hear their internal scream, like I'm suggesting something that is way too difficult for them.

I understand this feeling. It's difficult for me, too. It is easier to turn on the TV, to hand the toddler your phone, and to check your email again. It feels like everything important is happening on your phone. There are texts to answer, emails to send, photos to edit, and Amazon orders to finish up. But while you're staring a that little screen, a whole world of beauty and grace is swirling around you. You are in danger of missing it.

Our love of books isn't just about reading. Books and reading will teach us empathy for others' stories and help us tell our own stories well. This is about the way technology is causing us to lose ourselves and each other a little bit, because we are more engaged with people on the internet than we are with the people right in front of us.

Given the response to my post on Instagram and Facebook, I'm beginning to believe more people want a simpler, less electronic life than I previously suspected. My heart cries out, "Could it be? Are there other people who want to be set free?"

Back in the olden days, we had no choice except to engage in the life that was happening right in front of us. When we were in college, the only way to meet up for lunch with a friend was to call them the day before and make a plan. When we got married, the only way to get your email was to sit down at a computer. When we had our first child, there were no smart phones. So much changed so fast. Technology and the responsibility it brings to us kind of sneaked up on us, didn't it?

Now we have everything, everyone, the whole world in the palm of our hand. Which is dazzling in theory, but often quite stressful in practice.

The anxiety that comes with the constant barrage of emails, texts, and notifications begs the question: What does it profit us, if we gain the whole world and yet lose our souls?

Today I hope you ignore your phone while you play dominoes with an old friend. I dare you to check your notifications and emails in the morning and at lunch and then get on with your day. Read the first chapter of a very good book. Make pie crust and let your kids put the cinnamon and sugar on the apples. Take out a piece of paper and draw something just because you can. Ride your bike to the park and look at a magazine under a tree. Call your mom. Buy a Hallmark card and mail it to your grandfather. Mentally write a poem while you watch your son's soccer practice. Plan the next ten years of your life, imagining all the things you'll have to do to build the life who you want. Sit in the quiet of your bedroom and listen to the sound of your soul. Feel everything swirling around in your heart, and respond accordingly.

Go, live your life fully connected to the Love you so desperately need to receive and give. You will gain more than you give up. It will be worth it. You won't miss the shows you didn't binge or the posts you didn't "like".

You will just really, really love the life you have been built, one intentional choice at a time. It truly will be revolutionary in all the best ways. 

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