At the risk of succumbing to the Hollywood syndrome of exploiting endless franchise retreads to substitute for creativity and imagination, I introduce yet another “series” to my humble blog.
The classic spiritual disciplines – e.g. fasting, prayer, solitude, etc. – have been as well known as they have been neglected by the modern Church. Everyone will at least grant verbal assent to the importance of these ancient practices. Followers of Christ such as myself have read the books that describe the how and why: Celebration of Discipline, Spirit of the Discplines and so many more. We’re big on reading. On real life? Not so good.
Maybe it’s time to update those disciplines. There’s nothing wrong with the old ones, but if no one is practicing them, what’s the point? Thus, I begin this series of modern spiritual disciplines. These don’t replace the old ones, but many will apply to situations that simply didn’t exist when the ancient mystics sought spiritual succor.
The first and most obvious such discipline is a media fast. Today, I would argue that the standard practice of abstaining from food is far less important than laying off any kind of media. That includes TV, internet, radio, iPod/Pad, and more. In fact, I suspect that much old school meal fasting occurs as a natural side effect of an obsession with one of those distractions. Who hasn’t awakened from an intense session with one of these technologies only to find that a week has passed unnoticed? Maybe that’s an exaggeration.
How hard would it be to avoid all media input? We may never know. Just as the signals that transmit media messages are invisible yet ubiquitous, so the messages themselves, virtually invisible to our conscious selves, pervade our very existence. When asked where we can go to escape mass-media commercial messages, Ralph Nader responded, “To sleep.” He’s mostly right, but I’ll hazard a guess that some of us have had dreams that were heavily influenced by what has been inflicted on us.
Closely related to the disciplines of silence and solitude, a media fast would force us to face something that we are not comfortable with: our selves. There would be nothing to distract us from that most rare (but essential, God-given) of activities: thinking.
So try it out some time. As you should with food fasting, try it for short periods first – an hour or two then a full day. Put the iPhone down. Log off everything. Disconnect the cable. But don’t waste the time. Spend it thinking about your purpose, your life, your relationship with God, His character, people He has brought into your life. You might find yourself praying for those people. And what could be bad about that?