Okay, I will admit, that with the writing of this blog, it will probably be a little indicative of my age. But nonetheless, it is an important topic to consider across all generations – IMAGINATION (or the lack of it).
When I was a little boy, my older brother Dirk and I spent countless hours together with nothing more than a few simple toys and what seemed to be an unlimited amount of imagination. If we had a few plastic army men or hot wheels cars and some dirt, we could play all day long in a world of make believe excitement and wonder.
It seems like most kids now days can hardly function without a TV, computer or smart phone in front of their face.
Now, before you get all upset and quit reading, please know that I am not saying that electronic devices are a bad thing, far from it! There are countless benefits and blessings associated with such devices, and I in fact, use them quite regularly myself. So let me clarify as we go along.
I will also admit, that when it comes to reading a book, I highly favor having an actual printed book in my hands rather than an electronic kindle or other such device. There is something about the weight of the book in your hands and the turning of the paper pages that allows me to connect with the story so much deeper than glaring at a flickering screen.
I think that there is something lost in all of this artificially induced stimulation – Imagination. And with that loss, I believe there are some rather unfortunate side effects as well.
Think of the difference between sitting and staring at a TV screen watching a movie vs. reading a book. The TV images and sounds require almost nothing of the participant. What you see and hear is what you get. Now don’t get me wrong, I have been moved deeply and in very profound spiritual ways by many movies or programs. But you have to admit that most of what is on your Cable or Satellite broadcast is nothing but mind numbing drivel.
For kids growing up and immersed in this type of society, the imagination is artificially produced through Apps, electronic games and videos, with little or no firing of brain synapses required. Social interaction is also incredibly minimized to that point that even in social setting, people are sometimes hardly even aware of each other.
Now think of what happens when you give a child a book, or perhaps even do what our family did when our kids were growing up and read books together as a family.
When we read our imaginations are forced to go into overdrive as they create mental pictures, sounds, characters, places and events.
There is an emotional connection that happens in ways that just can’t be produced through electronic means for the most part. I believe this mental imagination process also carries over into non-book thinking as well, allowing individuals to think and solve problems better on their own, without the help of Google or YouTube simply generating the information automatically for them.
I don’t have any scientific studies to back up these next thoughts, but I have often wondered if the increasing amounts of depression and anxiety might somehow be related to an increased immersion in electronic media, and far less actual social and personal interactions. Let’s face it, your digital friendships through social media are hollow when compared to spending time with actual friends and loved ones.
Now again, don’t get me wrong, I love the tremendous access to information that is available through the internet, and I have been very highly educated through YouTube and other means as well (and have saved myself a lot of $ by learning how to do my own auto repairs, etc…). These things have their place in the world and we are all the better for them – As long as they aren’t allowed to dominate our lives.
But let me pose a possible more serious side effect of relying solely on the digital world around us, that of SPIRITUAL DISTRACTION.
Let’s ask ourselves a few honest questions here and see how we do:
1. What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed each morning? (Are you getting down on your knees and saying your prayers or are you checking your social media notifications? Are you reading and pondering your scriptures or are you reading emails and twitter posts?
2. If you have down time during any given day, are you taking time to meditate and contemplate divine truths and improve your relationship to God? (Or are you uncomfortable with the silence of your own thoughts and therefore feel a compulsion to fill that quiet with music, shooting out texts or watching distracting videos or video games?)
3. During the course of your average day, do you feel a compulsion to have to check your phone on a regular basis, even if you haven’t received a notification? (Does this distraction affect your concentration on your job duties or school studies?)
4. How about when you take your phone to Church on Sunday, so you can “use it to look up scriptures or lesson materials”? (Do you ever feel a compulsion to click off the lesson or scriptures to check your social media accounts during Sacrament meeting or Sunday school?) If so, can’t you almost imagine the Lord looking at you and asking, as he did His sleeping apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, “What? Could you not stay with me one hour?”
5. If you need to talk to a friend or loved one, do you prefer to call and talk to them, or simply send a text message? (is this because you feel uncomfortable with your ability to think and talk dynamically with them?)
6. Do you find it easier to go and sit through an action movie in the theater, or to go to the temple and receive instruction in things that have eternal significance?
We could go on with such questions, but if you feel as if your day would be a disaster without being able to check you cell phone or blast music through your headphones constantly, then you might consider if you have some kind of actual addiction going on.
If you want to use those electronic devices for something useful and be addicted to something worthwhile and spiritually uplifting, how about turn off the social media accounts and try doing some genealogy for a change!
Again, all things have their place and I am not suggesting that we should eliminate them from our lives. It also wouldn’t be a good thing to just have your face in a book all day and never have any interaction either. We are designed to be social and spiritual beings, so finding some control and balance over these things would definitely be a good idea.
Don’t take my word for it - Consider these thoughts and quotes:
“Hearken ye to these words. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Treasure up these things in your hearts, and let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34)
“We are so plugged in to the world that it’s hard to be plugged in to God. We have to put things aside. God required the ancient Israelite's tabernacle (temple) to be exact. Everything had its proper place. And the thing is, if they built it carelessly, God would never show up! So you wonder and say, ‘How come I don’t feel the presence of God in my life?’ Well, how much are you putting into your prayer life?” – Rabbi Jonathan Caan
So, all I am suggesting is that perhaps we could use a bit less of the artificial, electronic stimulation in our lives, and instead have a bit more spiritual imagination and connection.
Connect a bit less with the internet and let your prayers and meditation be a connection to the divine. After all, if you really want answers without having to filter through all the garbage and biased perspectives, connect to the source of ALL KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH!
I know I’ve still got some work to do in this area.
Let’s take some time and consider what a more fulfilled life would be like with less artificial and more of what is really true. I’m guessing we will find it a much more rewarding and meaningful existence than what we are currently experiencing.
I'll share just one more digital thought and video to conclude this discussion about limiting such things. You can then share it with someone you think might benefit... then put that stuff aside for awhile and... Just Imagine!