The Gaza Strip is in flames again. Iran is making noises about nukes. President Bush wants authority to protect us from terrorists and the Democrats fear the loss of civil liberties in the process. The 9th Circuit Cout in California truncates parental control over sex-ed for seven-year-olds. Govenor Terminator is terminating any attempts at fiscal restraint and the US-Mexico border does not exist. Meanwhile our children in college can take courses in aberrant sexuality and graduate without ever hearing about Aristotle.
OK - things are mess. What can one person do? Plenty!
British writer J.B. Phillips once commented that we need to unlearn some things before we can properly learn the truth of any matter. Whether the topic is God or politics, economics or parenting, Phillips argued that getting"unfocused" for a moment and then refocused with the right questions is crucial.
Before we set out to "solve" the many problems of our age, perhaps we need to "unplug" from the "organs of anxiety" and get our mental and emotional footing. I am not suggesting we all retreat to Amish farms or Luddite communes. Many of us have jobs that plug us in all day to the Internet and other media. In order to parent well and be relevant to our neighbors, we need to stay abreast of the world globally and locally.
So how do we "unplug" a bit? How do we "unfocus" so we can tune in to what matters?
In the spirit of David Letterman, let me present to you the Top Ten Ways to Unplug in 2006. These are presented as preparation for plugging in the right way. Here we go:
10. Turn off the TV. Start with one evening a week and gradually withdrawl until the only time it is on is for special, intentional programming. You will be amazed at how much more mental and physical energy you have - not to mention time!
9. Turn off the computer - unless you must correspond, do research or engage in business. Stop trolling the web and please stop forwarding the latest rumors and scams.
8. Turn off the iPod and listen to reasonable decibel-levels through a stereo while you read, work or converse. Maybe someone in the family will talk to you if those buds are out of your ears.
7. Turn off the car radio (OK, you can listen to me each Thursday on KSFO!) once in a while and enjoy some silence.
6. Turn off the negative voices of despair that rob you of hope and joy. I am not talking about a denial of pain or a refusal to get help for serious needs. For most of us, the nagging negativity keeps us less productive and it has no foundation in truth.
5. Refuse to participate in any kind of gossip. If a conversation turns sour, confront it gently and walk away if the others refuse to change the subject. Resolve to deal with people directly and with their best interest in mind.
4. Turn away from the magazines and tabloids that litter the supermarket checkouts and shelves. Enough said.
3. Unplug from toxic people - or at least put strong boundaries on time spent with those who bring you down. You may not be able to avoid some challenges and even negative people deserve attention. It is not selfish to stay positive - you are more good to God and the world if your attitude is hopeful.
2. Stop recreational shopping. Only buy what you need when you need it. You will have much more money and time for the fun and important things!
1. Finally, unplug from self-centeredness and choose to see your life as a thank you to God and a service to others. The paradox is that we are happiest when bringing delight to others!
Do you notice that when you unplug in these ways you are in fact plugged in to what really matters?