Octave of Christmas - Spiritual Reflection

Ah, yes the cacophony of Christmas. “Sleigh bells ring, are ya listening?” “Just hear those Jing-jing-jing-a-ling, ring-ring-ring-a-ling tunes!” “Silver bells…silver bells…” Oh sorry, that’s my cell phone, isn’t it?

Mike LaBossiere wrote an article in Talking Philosophy entitled, “Smart Phones & Sad Students.” Educators wondered “about the impact of smartphones on students. Recently Kent State researchers Andrew Lepp, Jacob Barkley and Aryn Karpinski did a study of 500 university students. The study involved tracking phone use, measuring happiness (defined in terms of anxiety and satisfaction) and retrieving official grade point averages.”

As Mike reported, “the analysis showed that as phone use increased, GPA decreased and anxiety increased.”Their “overall conclusion was that high frequency users will have a lower GPA, greater anxiety, and less life satisfaction than those who are lower frequency users,” although LaBossiere is a bit more skeptical stating that “correlation is not necessarily causation.”

Marty Kaplan is the Norman Lear Professor of Entertainment, Media and Society at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. He was a guest of Bill Moyers on “Moyers and Company.” (Listen from 33:35 to 34:40 in the video of interview below and Professor Kaplan’s comments on the topic can be found here).



While praising the wonders and benefits of modern technology and the new social media presence in our lives, Kaplan was lamenting the shadow side of the pervasiveness of the technology in his life. His solution? To regularly “proclaim a fast” from media. Turn off the TV, shut off the computer, turn the iPhone OFF (not just to “mute”). He finds himself less distracted, less nervous, more effective when he has periods of hitting the pause button in terms of technology.

As talk show most Dennis Prager would say, “Waaaaaaaaouw!” As in, look what I just found! The benefits of occasionally fasting. Sounds like something I’ve heard before.

In the midst of all of the criticism levied against the Catholic Church these days (and we must admit, a lot of it is justified) I find myself smiling again and again as the secular world continues to “discover” these amazing truths about life that the Church has known for …. oh, say 2,000 year perhaps?

Kaplan and Moyers seem to realize the significance of what they were saying especially at the end. The idea, and advantages, of fasting are somewhat intuitive from a human perspective. But he also said that he had to “come back… taking the wisdom of the mountaintop into the valley of the shadow.” (ala Psalm 23:4 perhaps?).

This is a key point. Retreats, fasting, quiet, the Ignatian idea of self-examination are all good ideas and beneficial but the benefits can’t be selfishly held onto by ourselves. The benefits need to be shared with others; the goodness needs to lead to charity. But you knew that already. And, although they might not give credit to the Desert Fathers or put a Catholic spin to it, I sense that Kaplan and Moyers know too.

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