I had the tremendous opportunity the week after Christmas to finally take a much needed rest and go on vacation with a small group of family and friends. Our trip took us to a small island in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida -- a tiny island with no commercial development--only a dozen or so private homes and one (very) rustic 8-room inn. We were ferried out to the island with all the groceries and supplies we would need for our week stay at the inn. For the whole week we were cut off from the mainland with no TV, no internet, no movie theaters, no malls. Just days of rest, reading, walking the beach, taking a hike through the pine woods, painting, and collecting sea shells in the surf.
I mention this because I was watching a commercial today for one of these cell phones that is a camera and an MP3 player, and accesses the internet and flushes your toilet by remote control and picks up milk for you at the grocery store. I couldn't help but think how many of my youth would love to have one of those phones. We are all so convinced that every new development in personal technology will make our lives so much better. We just have to have every version of the IPod that comes out! We just have to have the latest, slickest, slimmest cell phones! We just have to have the newest version of the hottest video game system! How many youth ministries consider themselves cutting edge because they have the newest, coolest sound system or video projection gadget or flash video website? But in the end, just how much happiness do these things bring? Especially since we'll trade them all in months or a year from now for the latest models which promise true happiness.
Now, I'm no luddite and I love my MP3 player, but I wonder that we wouldn't be better off without all this junk for awhile. If it were all taken away, maybe we'd find the time to sit quietly, read a book, take a meditative walk on the beach or down the block, admire the beauty of a tree, or stare up into the night sky and wonder at the galaxy spread out before us. I wonder that much of this technology that we love so well actually insulates us from the deeper experience of meeting God in the beauty of the natural world or in the face of those who pass us by each day, our ears plugged into our Ipods and our faces buried in our portable Playstations.