The Disappearance of Here and Now
Recently I read an article where the author lamented the “disappearance of here.” With our smart phones and other electronic devices, he said, we can easily be somewhere else rather than where we actually are.
The article was accompanied by a picture of three young college women sitting under some trees on campus with a wide expanse of lawn in front of them. The picture looks almost idyllic until you suddenly notice that the women are not conversing with each other or even enjoying the beauty around them. Instead, with their heads bent down, they are all texting on their cellphones. In a way we can say: they are no longer “here,” that is, with each other under the trees.
Similarly, have you ever been out to lunch with a friend, engaged in a good conversation, and your friend’s cellphone rings and she answers it? For a few moments at least she is no longer “here” but with the caller. Even if she makes the call short, often the call has disturbed the natural flow of the conversation.
The disappearance of “here” can have disastrous consequences. How many serious and even fatal car accidents have been attributed to someone texting while driving? They were more focused on their phones than on the here and now of driving a car. And what about that woman walking and texting in the mall who fell right into a fountain of water? She said she never saw it. Understandably, because she was no longer present to her here and now.
I must be clear: I am not against cellphones and other electronic devices. After all, I regularly enjoy the convenience
of my cellphone and Kindle. And I fully realize how important cellphones can be—especially in an emergency. But I think there’s a time for turning them off. There’s a time for not being available—for example, during meals, while strolling in a park, while relaxing with family or friends, or (dare I say?) while praying. Otherwise, we end up giving more attention to our callers who are not here than to the person or persons right in front of us. Or we can fail to notice and appreciate the “here and now” we are actually inhabiting.
Why is it so vital to be attentive to the here and now? In the early 18th Century, the French Jesuit Jean Pierre de Caussade coined the phrase “the sacrament of the present moment.” Notice, he called the present moment a sacrament? Why? Because it is precisely in the here and now that we primarily encounter God and God’s will for us. Caussade wrote: “The divine will is a deep abyss of which the present moment is the entrance.” Another French writer, a 20th Century laywoman, Simone Weil, said something similar. She warned against “daydreaming.” By daydreaming she meant “not being present to where one is.” Weil says that love demands that we be present to the here and now. Love requires that we embrace life as it is showing up in the here and now—even when that here and now is painful.
Jesus showed us how important it is for us to be attentive to the here and now. Remember his parable about the rich man and the beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)? The rich man was not an evil person. He didn’t mistreat the beggar Lazarus. He just didn’t notice him lying outside his door every day, although the beggar was covered with sores and begged for scraps of food. How could the rich man be so blind to Lazarus’ misery? We don’t know. (I don’t think he was texting!) But maybe a more important question to ask is this: are we
sometimes blind to the misery of people right “outside our door”? How are we responding to the sufferings of others we encounter in our “here and now”?
In talking about being present to the here and now, I must add this: I believe that periodic “escapes” from our here and now are necessary and even healthy. It is good to get lost in a good book or movie, for example. Or to go on a vacation. Even when we make a retreat, we are escaping our ordinary here and now and replacing it with an intense here and now of prayer, quiet, solitude, and reflection. But the purpose of these “escapes” is to help us come back to our ordinary here and now again with greater energy, vision, courage, and (above all) love!
Suggested practice: Try to be more attentive to your here and now this week.
The song for today is “Everyday God” by Bernadette Farrell. It reminds us that God is, indeed, present in all the here’s and now’s of our every day.
What are your thoughts and feelings about some of the issues raised in this reflection?
What helps you to be more attentive to the here and now?
Do any of the words or phrases of the song speak to you today?
Thanks for the reflection Sr. Melannie! I am visiting family and I find just being in the here and now is a gift.
The phrase Everyday God resonates with me.
Thanks so much Melannie! Such a timely reflection. I love the song so much. Today especially I was struck that God, father is called Everyday God, that God is a God of laughter. That is how God points out my little faults and foibles through some gentle joke to me–I really love it! 🙂
Thank you so much for this reflection. We all need this reminder. The song is beautiful.
Really enjoy all your writings.
Thank you for all you share!!
Sr. Melanie: Beautiful song. The words resonate truth. We all need to disconnect from the technology in use today. The technology is good in many ways, but has also replaced people in many ways. We need to reflect each day on the many blessings we have thanks to God. Barbara Donahue 🙂
That was a beautiful reflection song it spoke to me profoundly by saying God is with you in everyday life. When you wake and sleep. How you want the spirit by you in your trials and knowing he is there. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you. That was a beautiful reminder and song to start my busy Monday with.
Thank you. The phrase “come be with us” speaks to me……….
I have been doing a lot of reading about stress management, eating disorders, etc., and one of the thing that comes up frequently is “mindfulness”. There is a lot out there about mindfulness for stress reduction, and mindful eating. Several hospitals offer the MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction) for their patients with chronic pain, cancer, etc.
We know it as meditating, centering, grounding, being in the here and now, etc.
All of which speak to your topic. We are not “present”.
I have been trying to be better, and of course the one thing that the literature tells us to do in order to get started is to focus on our breathing.
So, next time I’m waiting in line, in traffic, or my mind is overwhelming me……………I focus on my breathing, in and out……………it really helps, and even helps sleeping too!
Thanks Sr. Melannie!
On beautiful Waloon Lake in upper Michigan at a friend’s lovely cottage trying to be in the here and now in this paradise. Will try to limit my electronic use so I won’t miss all God has put in my presence this week.
Recently I was watching my most favorite sport on TV (baseball) when I noticed more than 75% of the fans seated behind home plate were all sitting with heads down looking at cell phones, I-pads, or some other electronic device. How sad. They had the opportunity to enjoy a game and become a part of it all. Your article has reminded me yet again that I must stay fully engaged in God’s world around me, truly practicing the faith He has blessed me with. Thank you Sr Melannie!
Thank you, Sister. I shared this reminder/reflection on FB.
You wrote what is in my heart and the song was like a litany I would love to know by memory. Thank you for your sharing.
I am so grateful that I did not grow up with the cell phone era; I enjoy receiving a phone call but keep my cell in my car when at Church, visiting, and dining. I trust in God if there is an emergency, like we did for so many years, prior to the electronic boom. I use to text for work but rather hear your verbal quick message so I thoroughly understand what you are saying. Mother Teresa has a beautiful prayer on the value of silence so we can hear God’s response. Bless you, Sister.
I so agree with your thoughts on cellphone usage. It makes me deliberately try not to have it on at all times. The song is beautiful. I love the feminine reference to the H.S. BLESSINGS
I agree that so many people are wrapped up in their “devices”, young or old. I still prefer to “talk” to people when placing an order or making plans with friends and family. Texting does not convey emotions (and irony is misunderstood!). We are losing connection with each other.
Once again, THANK YOU for your very timely and insightful reflection, Melannie! You are gift!
I look forward to every Monday and your posts what a blessing. Beautiful video and song so peaceful
Thank you for bringing us to the present moment. It is where we need to be as much as possible and I so agree with all of the previous responses to your writings. I am trying to begin contemplation and I have been getting so many nudges in that direction. There is no gift like the present.