Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Laptops and Luddites

For the last week and a half, I've felt very much the Luddite.  As my doctoral program trundles into the midpoint of it's second week of intensive classes, I am technologically in a very different place than my classmates.

Meaning, I'm one of a very significant minority amongst my classmates not to have a laptop screen or iPad glowing directly in front of me.  I do have my iPhone, of course, which means that I am technologically in a place far, far beyond where even the most bleeding edge of my seminary cohort would have been back in 1996, when I began my M.Div. studies.  I can look up anything I want by pouring it down from a cellular data network...and have, as it pertains to classwork.    I can check email, should I need to.  I can text or call.  I can check the weather, if it seems pertinent to how moist or hail-pelted I might be riding home on the bike.  I'm connected in that way, as is every single one of my classmates.

But I just don't feel like I want that screen in front of me.  I don't want it competing for my attention, luring me away with the siren song of Facebook and email and sermons that need to be prepped.  Yeah, yeah, I know, the folks who are constant-on will claim to be "multi-tasking."  It's their choice.  Maybe they're better at it than I.  But with that choice right there in your face, it's far easier to yield to the net-hunger fluttering, the ADD flickering in-and-outness, to drift back into the byte-gobbling Turkish Delight indulgence of everything-you-want, and to miss out on the place that you are.

Yeah, going laptop-commando does have drawbacks.  I can't immediately access assigned papers that were distributed electronically.  I will likely miss it when the time comes to convert notes into the papers that must be completed, when I look at some half completed scroodle of a note and wonder what that word was meant to be.  Is that an eight?  Or was I trying to draw a duck?

But given that my professors and my classmates have things to share and stories to tell that are of real value, the absence of screen between thee and me feels worth it.  It lets me be where I am incarnate, meat and flesh and scent and taste, inhaling the same air as a roomful of other enfleshed souls.   I can lean back, and look out, and be more present and aware.

And if the mind wanders, well, there's always good-old-fashioned pen-and-paper doodling.  Oh, how I loves me some doodling.