From the USCCB, we learn that “For members of the Latin Catholic Church, the norms on fasting are obligatory from age 18 until age 59. When fasting, a person is permitted to eat one full meal, as well as two smaller meals that together are not equal to a full meal.” There is only the mention of the three meals ( 2 small, 1 slightly larger ), so, it may be presumed that fasting means no eating between meals.
St. Paul in 1 Cor 7:5 indicates that it is permissible for husbands and wives to:
“fast” from sex when he said, ‘Do not deprive each other, except perhaps by mutual consent for a time, to be free for prayer, but then return to one another, so that Satan may not tempt you through your lack of self-control.”
So, fasting may be refraining from anything we would find to satisfy some need or drive. The reader then asks the question, “Fine. But what has any of this got to do with technology?”
Surrounded by Technology- People Alone Together
My wife and I were recently at a restaurant where we were seated next to a table of five. All five were at least young adults in the range of 25 and higher.
On the table before them were two laptops which two of the people would type upon from time to time. All five people had phones in their hands or at their ears. When their food arrived, they stayed preoccupied with their electronics and ate with one hand while juggling the phone or laptop.
When they finished lunch, they paid the bill, packed up the laptops and left without taking much notice of each other. Presumably, they returned to work where they could again be alone together. The thought did occur to me that perhaps they were all texting each other and were having a “conversation” that way.
Just going to a mall or shopping plaza or grocery store and it appears that the majority of people have a smartphone at the ready. Distracted walking has become a significant concern in some larger cities as people who are enraptured by these ubiquitous devices walk against the light signals, walk into street signs and fall off of curbs, among other issues. Distracted walkers even have their own nicknames, “petextrians” — people who text while walking.
Distracted driving is, of course, even worse since it involves a machine or several machines of up to a few tons of steel moving in an unplanned, unattended manner. Many communities have begun programs to curb distracted driving, or text-free areas, or similar cautionary moves, but, how about a more fundamental shift?
Text Free Zones
What would happen if…
We took one hour to go completely technology-free?
We took one lunch hour to actually get to know our coworkers?
We took one hour, one evening and brought the kids to the park?
We took some bit of time and prayed a family rosary?
We took 20 minutes in the morning, before the assault of technology hit us, to say the Liturgy of the Hours?
We took an hour after dinner and took the kids and pets for a walk around the neighborhood?
We got up a few minutes early and went to morning Mass and/or the rosary?
Clearly, I understand that this could not start off as a National, State, or even city-wide phenomenon, but, how about one house, on one block in one neighborhood, in one tiny town?
Before text messages, before cell phones, whether there was an answering machine or not, people would call on a landline ( how primeval? ) and actually leave a message for someone else, or simply had to try the call again in a few minutes/hours/days. Did these people have a fire in their caves and torches, or were they still tripping on rocks while trying to capture that saber-toothed tiger?
I am not advocating that the family take one entire evening and declare it to be technology free and use the time to play board games, although that idea does have some desirability to it. What I am asking is that we, you and I, take one lunch, one hour, one coffee break ( to start with ) and leave the cell phone on the desk ( or locked in a drawer if you are that concerned about it ), push away from the computer ( even more radically, you do not even have to log-off ), and make any other plans you feel may be necessary and go outside to walk and simply pray.
Whoa, Babe, “How Am I Supposed to Pray Like That?”
I know. No prayer books, no Mass going on, no scripted prayers, just you and the Creator of the Universe. Start with looking around, the sun is out, thank God for the beauty of the day. It is raining, thank God for the benefits of rain for the farmers. You see kids playing in a schoolyard, thank God for the health of your kids, they have made it into high school without any broken bones. It is snowing, thank God for the soft white blanket which will cover the world’s sins for a bit of time. As you return to the building, thank God that you have a job to go to and a paycheck for your efforts.
After doing this a few times, you may notice that the office area has changed while you have been away. Yes, the tasks are still there, yes, the meetings have not gone away, yes, the massive list of deliverables may have even grown a bit during the time you were out of the area, but, you are somewhat more refreshed. You have been away spending some time with the Great I Am, and your perspective may have even shifted a bit.
Perhaps, after doing this tech-free time for a few days, you may shift it from coffee break to lunch, and it can be 25 or 35 minutes rather than 7 or 8. Perhaps, after doing the lunch refresh for a few times, you can share it with your spouse and the two of you, then the kids, then the neighbors, then and then…
We have been told to pray always. It is nearly impossible to pay attention and pray while paying attention to a smartphone, typing on a keyboard and searching for that set of minutes from the last meeting.
Technology-free for 6 minutes, then a few more, then a few more, then with your spouse and kids, then the world appears to soften and slow down a tad. It does not change, of course, but you will and your reactions will, and you are in a better place. In this new place, it will be easy when things go right to look up and say “thank you”, or, when things go wrong, look up and say “thank you and help me learn from this for your glory.”