By Chaplain (Maj.) Clark Sneed
Special to GUIDON
Our home here at Fort Leonard Wood is a technological wonder: three modern televisions, four computers, Alexa, smart bulbs, smartphones, iPads and even a sassy little robot named Mr. Piggles that cheerfully cleans the floor.
But I still miss the ‘80s.
Life seemed simpler. Phones had rotary dials with letters that had nothing to do with texting.
Teenagers twisted the long, spiral cord around their fingers as they talked for hours with other teenagers. The phone was only as “mobile” as your cord was long. We had premium cable television — all 12 channels, and no remote.
Around midnight, the networks showed the American flag, played the national anthem, and then most channels stopped broadcasting. We had “New Coke” and watched in awe as a big wall in Germany came down.
I waited eagerly at the mailbox for real paper letters — and the best ones might have a hint of perfume on them.
I visited my neighbors, especially Mrs. Cunningham, an elderly widow. We sat in her “parlor” as she told me about her good old days.
You could think then. You talked with people, and the only screen you looked at outside your house was the one you opened to knock on your neighbor’s door. If something buzzed in your pocket, you knew you were about to get stung.
Blaise Pascal once wrote, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” If that was true in the 17th century, how much more today? The smartphone arrived in 2007.
Within a few years almost everyone owned one. For the first time in human history it was possible to never sit quietly in a room with only your thoughts.
Those born after 1997 have not known a time without social media.
These brilliantly engineered devices constantly hijack our attention. The average person checks their device 85 times a day. Studies show that we are now the loneliest and most socially disconnected generation ever.
The psalmist writes, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth,” Psalm 46:10.
Turn the devices off. Make them work for you, not the other way around. Sit quietly in a room alone. Practice stillness, and hear the voice of God.
(Editor’s note: Sneed is an ethics instructor with the U.S. Army Engineer School.)