Friday, July 23, 2010

Fighting Against Distraction and Wasted Time

On top of the half-dozen or so books which I am reading and perpetually never completing, a friend and I are reading through John Piper's Don't Waste Your Life. One of the most potent sections of the book is where Piper talks about the things which distract us from having a wartime mentality. Particularly, television. And since I touched on this last week, I thought I would share what Piper says here:

"Television is one of the greatest life-wasters of the modern age. And, of course, the Internet is running to catch up, and may have caught up. You can be more selective on the Internet, but you can also select worse things with only the Judge of the universe watching. TV still reigns as the great life-waster. The main problem with TV is not how much smut is available, though that is a problem. Just the ads are enough to sow fertile seeds of greed and lust, no matter what program you’re watching. The greater problem is banality. A mind fed daily on TV diminishes. Your mind was made to know and love God. Its facility for this great is ruined by excessive TV. The content is so trivial and so shallow that the capacity of the mind to think worthy thoughts withers, and the capacity of the heart to feel deep emotions shrivels. Neil Postman shows why.
What is happening in America is that television is transforming all serious public business into junk. . . . Television disdains exposition, which is serious, sequential, rational, and complex. It offers instead a mode of discourse in which everything is accessible, simplistic, concrete, and above all, entertaining. As a result, America is the world’s first culture in jeopardy of amusing itself to death."

Now, if we're feeling cynical, we might just say that Piper is being an irrelevant old-timer here, and Piper needs to lighten up and see that they times are a'changing. However, as a twenty-something who finds himself perpetually distracted while attempting to be perpetually focused, I have begun to realize that many of the things we enjoy do, in fact, form a fog obscuring our thinking. Let me give an example.

How many times have you come to the computer with a particular task, only to moments later forget why you came to the computer... You check your email, facebook, our blog... only to forget why you actually sat down in that chair. My strategy that I've been developing (and I'm still working on this) is to look at the clock, decide when I'm going to be done, and to mentally settle what tasks I'm at the computer to accomplish.

Sometimes it's just time to check my RSS feeds. But even my RSS feeds can be distracting, so I've had to shed a lot of them. For example, I dropped my daily updates from since economics and general anger with the government has dropped on my priority list. This helps me to spend less time sorting through things which I simply shouldn't bother wasting time thinking about.

Sometimes I'm at the computer working on a blog post. As an example, since that is that task I am performing right now, I have settled that no matter what, I'm getting up from the computer at 8:45 am. If I'm not done, I'll have to come back later. This keeps me from finishing my task, then wandering around the internet looking for videos of bulldogs licking window panes.

One of my other personal rules/practices is that I do not use the computer, check email, etc. until I have finished my Bible reading for the day. I've been using the ESV Bible Daily Reading Plan for several months now, and I make it a priority that The Bible is number one in my daily activities. Only after I have finished with the highest priority activities will I deal in less important affairs such as writing about how I prioritize my daily activities on Bring the Books.

I am interested to see/hear/read about some of the ways that our readers try to fight the lethargic draw of the internet while actually using the internet. For my part, I can honestly say I haven't gotten the balance figured out yet, but if we as Christians are to survive in this age of distraction, we have to find strategies, methods, and practices which we can take with us through life since, unless Al Gore shuts it down, the internet is probably here to stay.

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