The Altar of Simplicity

If you are 40 years or older, do you remember when you got your first mobile phone? When I was in high school my dad purchased one for the car and it came in a bag the size of a metropolitan phone book. There was really no room for it in the car and it was anything but wireless. How about your first experience with computers? In the mid-80's we purchased an Apple IIE, which had just enough internal storage to house a little over 2 pages of a term paper before I would have to print it out, erase what I had previously typed, and pick up where I left off. When we got a television with a remote control, I couldn't believe how awesome it was not to  have to walk across the room to turn one of the few channels that we could pick up. And then there was cable TV...

Yes, life used to feel much simpler and not just by technological standards. It seemed that we played outside a whole lot more when we were kids, ate more family meals together, took more family trips together, and in general spent more time with family and friends. Maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe things are as simple today as they were back when I was a kid. But it doesn't seem that way.

There is a car company that mocks the "plugged in generation" by portraying them as truly "living the life" stuck behind their computer screens while their parents use their new cars to go on great adventures. There may be some truth to that, but wouldn't it make sense if mom and dad still spent time with their kids? (I can't really adequately comment on how many young adults return home after college to live with mom and dad, which certainly serves as inspiration for this commercial)

Is it wrong to enjoy the convenience of laptop computers, iPhones, email, texting, 1,000 television channels, and social media? No. In fact, I enjoy all of those things. I don't believe that we can point to modern technology and shoulder it with the blame of disconnecting people from having "real" human interaction. If anything, older generations can make just as much an idol of "the way things used to be" as the current generation does with technology. What good does it do if I spend my time on my front porch complaining about kids these days if I never get out of my chair to engage them?

I guess you could say as a culture and society we are at a bit of a crossroads. We are not going to halt the advance of technology and discovery, and I don't know that we should try. At the same time, clutching grainy pictures of days gone by will not make simpler days magically reappear. Instead, what we should strive for no matter what is more time together. People and relationships matter. Yes, I can text you with a quick question but I'll be honest, I don't want to discuss important issues with you via electronic communication. Instead, let's sit down together and talk.

As schedules become more consuming and time seems more fleeting, here are some suggestions that can make life a little more sweeter and simpler at the same time:
  • Keep the television off. When you do have time together, whether its as a family or a gathering of friends, don't substitute mindless entertainment for quality time and conversation. But there is also great benefit in having family movie night--the television is not always the enemy!
  • If you have kids, take time to read to them. My son and I have read through three of the Hardy Boy's books in the past couple of months and, although he probably can't recall much of the details of what we've read, neither one of us will forget the time spent together.
  • Read to yourself. Books are a treasure, and whether you read the paper kind or use something like a Kindle or a Nook, there is nothing quite like blocking out time to study a topic that interests you or simply getting lost in an adventure. 
  • Eat meals together. One of the top priorities my family has is to enjoy nightly meals together. I know of few better opportunities to gather all of us together for uninterrupted discussion and laughter (and it makes it even better when we allow the kids to help in the meal preparation).
  • Go places together with family and friends. Whether it's a walk around the neighborhood, evenings on the front porch, or a trip to the water park, do it together. Be intentional about spending time with each other.
  • Invest in the spiritual health of your family. I take it as my honor and duty as a father to lead my wife and children in spiritual pursuits. We plan regular family Bible study in our home and our day is not over until we have prayed with and for our children. I love that my kids can enjoy great childrens' programs at church, but that is no substitute for us as parents being the leaders in their spiritual development.
I miss simple. The way things used to be did seem to be much easier, even if it did involve wearing plaid pants and striped shirts. Whether that's me being some kind of nostalgic ideologue (which is probably the case) or not, I do believe that taking time to invest more in people and relationships will make life not just a little more simple but a whole lot more enjoyable. We were created for relationships. Let's live like relationships still matter. 

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