In preparation for my trip to France, my dad suggested we spring for an international plan–just in case we really needed to make a call or use our phones while we were abroad–it’d be better to pay a little up front instead of footing the bill if we needed the service but hadn’t paid for it beforehand.
I didn’t listen to him.
Thankfully–as you can safely assume from my recent glowing updates about my trip–we didn’t encounter any emergency that required use of our cellphones as phones (though you’ve already seen much evidence of our use of our cellphones as cameras!). I learned something important from not having my phone’s “smart” capability accessible most of the time, though–I learned to look up.
Sitting with my husband at lunch, waiting for the food to arrive, walking down city streets, waiting in line at a museum or (yet another!) church–I had no excuse not to look up, to look out at the people passing on the street, to look at the architecture, to look at the sky. All this looking at other things not only helped me to keep my mind attentive to what was in front of me–which was no small change!–but it also kept me from looking down, looking at myself–navel gazing.
When we look down at our phones, we’re not only missing the world around us, but we’re teaching ourselves to do something strange with our bodies. Our necks are cranked down–not the way we’re made–and our bodies are hunched over, literally curling in ourselves. What kind of patterns are we teaching our minds and hearts through our bodies if we’re curved in on ourselves all the time? We’re not just missing the world around us, but we’re becoming the only thing that we see–and it’s not a particularly attractive angle at that.
When we hold our bodies so that our eyes and faces are looking out and up, do you know what happens to our hearts? Our hearts are opened, as our backs are held up straight–as if our very souls are ready to shine and share with others. If we look down, it’s not only ourselves who are missing something; everyone else around you can’t see you and your beautiful heart–we’re robbing ourselves, and others, of the great beauty that all the world possesses.
I got into this work (being a priest) because there’s nothing I love more than seeing God at work in people’s lives. Sometimes I lose sight of that love, and the work gets to be onerous. In France, I was made to look at the beauty of people, of buildings, and of nature all the time. It helped me remember that there is beauty everywhere, all the time. We need only to look for it–and looking out and up is one of the best ways.
(super short approximation of sermon delivered 6 July, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral. Original version had a lot more about Gothic architecture in it; see another entry soon…)