Last Wednesday was almost a rueful “flashback” experience! Returning from teaching at the seminary, I watch a group of high school boys racing for the train in various stages of dishevelment (perhaps having completed some team practice) – making the train by .08 of a second before it left the platform. I was transported back to the early to mid 1960’s and “saw” in their places four boys (named O’Neill, Campo , O’Leary and Kaldahl) who would do the exact same thing returning home from various high school teams, clubs and/or even detention!
What struck me this time however, although I have seen this a zillion times on the streets, in malls, even here at church is how the kids were in some kind of non-verbal semi-communicative state with one another (without any seeming verbal or facial contact) as they were all plugged into their phones and staring intently into the electronic abyss. Where “back in the day,” the four of us would try to polish off the worst of homework (either math or Latin .. usually) and then spend the remainder of the commute talking about earth shattering topics (usually sports or girls), these young men never seemed to talk at all – just stare and thumb and once in a while smirk.
I am not judging. I am observing. Are we losing the ability to communicate – to just talk to one another face-to-face? Have we lost the ability to read one another and know, perhaps, that in spite of words of bravado, my friend or my sister is really hurting and needs my ear and my attention. Must we always be plugged in with noise? If so, then where is there space for quiet, for thinking … or for God?