Is Contemplation Dead?

For the last 20 years, my reality has been ever more shaped by its connectedness to the world through technology, even to the point where I was hardly without my iPhone or iPad. I kept up with friends and family with texts or on Facebook, made countless Google searches and watched an ever increasing number of Youtube videos every day and night. I did most of my shopping online.

This way of life and thinking came to a crashing halt when I surrendered to Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp on August 26, 2015, a place with no internet access, at least not for me, and where cell phones are strictly prohibited. I never thought I would come to this conclusion, but that's not all bad.

I have to admit that I never noticed that as technology improved and the amount of information and its delivery speed increased, I became less patient. If a web page didn't load immediately, I went elsewhere. It was difficult to watch TV without having my iPad in my lap. I had so allowed myself to be over-stimulated and over-notified, I had almost forgotten how to think.

Nicholas Carr in The Shallows asks a great question. Does this immediacy of information technology mean "the loss of the contemplative mind?" He writes, "We've adopted the Google ideal of the mind, which is that you have a question that you can answer quickly: close-ended, well defined questions. Lost in that conception is that there's all this open-ended way of thinking where you're not always trying to answer a question. You're trying to go where that thought leads you."

I'm convinced that in my case, I had inadvertently trained my mind to not be contemplative. When someone merely mentioned the word, they got from me a blank stare. That's sad, but true. Contemplative thoughts don't load in 2/5ths of a second. Sometimes they bubble up from my subconscious. Sometimes they whisper in the breeze like "a still small voice". I have to chase them down, hold them, and come back to them before they make sense. Sometimes these thoughts don't make sense, but I've learned over the last year that if I don't give up on them, they reappear and sometimes do speak to me in unexpectedly wonderful ways.

I'm not sure exactly how that all works, only that it never seems to work quickly.