the other night, carrie and i went out for dinner, as we normally do friday evenings. when we were seated, i glanced around the small restaurant and noticed three different couples, sitting at three different tables, staring blankly down at their cell phones. this sight isn’t unusual. you see it everywhere, and it’s the subject of the wp7 ad campaign. i know from first hand experience the constant gnawing to reach into my pocket and look into my iphone, even when i’m in the company of others. it sits there and longs to be adored, and i frequently succumb to its beckoning.
we took some sips of water, talked a bit about how work had gone, and ordered dinner. i looked around again: all three couples. six phones out. blank stares galore. their bodies were in one place but they were present in another.
predictably, this kept up most of the evening. it’s certainly possible that whatever they were doing on their phones legitimately required their full and immediate attention at the expense of their dinner date. but more likely than not, they were reading random stuff online or (even better) texting someone.
there is of course the irony in going out to dinner with someone only to spend your evening texting someone else. that is kinda silly. but i was reminded of something i remember my pastor talking a lot about back in the day. he used to always talk about practicing a ministry of presence. at the time, he meant you just need to show up. now, it must be added you have to make the conscious decision to not ignore everyone once you’re there.
“So in Jesus’ own teaching, in his choice not to avoid confrontation with the temple leaders and their Roman overseers, we find that his most definitive calling is neither to cultivate nor create — though, as we have seen, he did both extensively. The core calling of his life is not something he does at all in an active sense–it is something he suffers. The strangest and most wonderful paradox of the biblical story is that its most consequential moment is not an action but a passion — not a doing but a suffering.”
[andy crouch, culture making]
“The state of being envied is what constitutes glamour. And [advertising] is the process of manufacturing glamour. … [advertising] is always about the future buyer. It offers him an image of himself made glamorous by the product or opportunity it is trying to sell. The image then makes him envious of himself as he might be. Yet what makes this self-which-he-might-be enviable? The envy of other. [Advertising] is about social relations, not objects. Its promise is not of pleasure, but of happiness: happiness as judged from the outside by others. The happiness of being envied is glamour. … Being envied is a solitary form of reassurance. It depends precisely upon not sharing your experience with those who envy you. You are observed with interest but you do not observe with interest – if you do, you will become less enviable.”
[Paul Berger, Ways of Seeing]
i read this passage a few weeks ago and i’ve been reflecting on it ever since… i’ve found it to be quite true. this critique of consumer culture is powerful because it makes you feel silly. pretty interesting.