For now we see as in a glass, darkly; then we will see face to face. – Paul
We have a problem.
Slender rectangles dangle in our pockets, our purses, our coats. They call out to our hands, our hearts, our minds.
I wonder if so-and-so responded to what I said yet. I wonder how many people liked my picture on Instagram. I wonder what crazy thing so-and-so has posted on Facebook today.
And while the wondering isn’t harmful, necessarily,
the constant triggers
be beginning to rule us.
Some of you already know. Some of you have told me so.
Others might be looking for the nearest breakable object to fling across the room as you read,
this is the close of 2013.
We rely on our Google Maps,
our text messages,
our calendars and contacts.
We depend on our social media updates,
our shopping apps,
our crazily-addictive electronic games.
How could we go without our magic miracle boxes?
But you can put down your glass lamps;
I’m not asking you to.
I’m just telling a story.
Last Tuesday I woke to find my phone plugged into the outlet beside our bed.
Fearing the tiny intelligence had come to life and plugged in itself – for heaven knows I hadn’t done it – I asked my husband if he knew what happened.
I woke up to find your bag glowing, he said. Did you turn your flashlight on in the middle of the night?
– Well, it was on when I found it. It went off when I plugged it in.
I didn’t think anything of it
– other than please last till my contract ends –
and I set my alarm
– on my magic miracle box –
for work the next morning.
I woke at 5:20 to a spotlight in my eyes.
Except, this time, it would not go off.
My friends were full of helpful suggestions. Turn off the flashlight app, they said. Take it in to get fixed, they suggested. Change your settings, they added.
Yes, I’d already done all those things.
My husband, the techie
– and one of the smartest people I know –
at his unfathomable defeat
by the mighty name of Apple.
And the chorus rang out:
Seriously. What is wrong with this thing?
We found out it was a hardware problem.
One that would two days to fix.
You’re so funny.
Two days without my phone.
So, nearing the end of my three year contract, we decided to bite the bullet and buy a new one.
Oh, but we couldn’t.
Our contract had a designated rep, see. And he wasn’t currently available. And when he was finally available, he promptly informed us that Cyber Monday had depleted his entire supply of every generation of iPhones.
My poor husband called everyone he could think of who could possibly find me a new phone. Each one said
there was nothing they could do,
and each one wanted,
a kidney –
to see if there might be something
they could possibly figure out.
I still like my kidneys better than my machine.
Look, Lana, the phone still works, technically. Just take it with you and try not to blind everyone with the spotlight.
So I did.
But by this point, the flashlight had been mysteriously, defiantly on for at least thirty hours in a row.
that thing was hot.
By the time I left my work conference Thursday afternoon, I got electrocuted every time I touched it.
I left the death box behind when I went out that night.
I’m not going to lie.
It felt odd.
What if no one can find me?
What if the car breaks down?
What if I’m delayed getting home and David is worried about me?
I’m not used to feeling so…
I used to be more comfortable with privacy.
Before smartphones, blogs, Facebook, and every opportunity known to man
to connect, vomit on, and judge our fellow humans;
before I began to curate my uncomfortable introvert self as a (somewhat) presentable package to an extrovert world;
before I recognized that everyone needs to connect,
even those of us who thrive on more alone time than our outgoing counterparts;
before I realized that revealing some of my struggles might actually benefit someone else;
before I had friends worth risking for;
before I knew I wanted to be found.
And let’s face it, world.
We want to be found.
Or at least we want to be able to find things.
Twenty years ago, if I wanted to learn something, I had to go to a library and read green-tinted, shiny-filmed, alien-fonted magazines on an over-sized microscope, cough my way through endless rows of musty books, or convince a cranky librarian to point me in a better direction.
Contrast this with Wednesday night:
Me to David: Do you think there’s a YouTube video of Chandler-isms?
(you can see we care lots about the deep stuff these days)
David: (looking at his phone) No, there’s not, apparently. But I found an interview with him on Conan O’Brien last week.
We – of course – watch said interview.
Then we cease to be Matthew Perry fans.
Because, my goodness, Canuckia, he calls himself Canadian
– while claiming to be a KINGS fan.
Not only that.
The Stanley Cup was at his house.
Because Anze Kopitar brought it there.
Annnnddd…. that’s the end of our Friends love.
(well, not really).
(You do have to stop the Q-tip when you meet resistance).
But it could have been.
with the click of a button,
we could find out something,
and it turns out its something we don’t like.
Here’s the thing:
If I were to write a personal manifesto,
I would probably spend ninety percent of it
espousing the virtue of authenticity.
I like to know things.
I like my friends to know me.
I have a low tolerance for bull—t.
Which might explain why I adore watching Jennifer Lawrence interviews.
(again with the deep stuff).
Perhaps I understand her lack of filter.
Or perhaps I admire her nothing-to-hide attitude.
Or perhaps I, like Elizabeth Bennet, have so valued the accessible and artless
that I’ve begun to overlook the beauty of what’s hidden.
I’m afraid one has all the goodness and the other all the appearance of it. – Jane Austen
Some of my dearest friends right now
are those who,
on first meeting,
(Guess what: they’re not).
(Far from it).
Take, for example, the scene from BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice:
– Well, I never! Did you ever meet such a proud, disagreeable man?
– (Mama, he will hear you.)
– I don’t care if he does! And his friend is supposed to be everything charming.
– Who is he to think himself so far above his company?
Have these values come to substitute for virtue?
Have we allowed perception to become actuality
and personality to become character?
Let’s think about this.
What if we have it a bit backwards?
I grew up quiet in a house buzzing with activity. What I lacked in social confidence, my parents and older brother made up for in spades.
I envied them.
(I still do.)
I spent my teenage years learning to become like them. I studied other people, watched what made them connect with others, and learned to do the same thing.
And I saw that a lot of what connects us is imperfection.
We want to see other people have warts.
It means they’re just like us.
So I learned to talk about things.
I learned to reveal parts of me that I’d previously kept hidden.
And this amazing thing happened.
People liked me.
(well, some of them, anyways).
But perhaps in my zeal for the likable and friendly
I unknowingly sidestepped the profit of
And the thing is,
we need both.
Last Friday afternoon, the girls and I came home from seeing The Nutcracker to find that Daddy had done the impossible.
He found Mommy a new phone.
It’s truly a Christmas miracle, he said.
And though I ripped open the box with glee
– I’d had enough my slowly dying death stick –
a part of me felt sad
that I was no longer hidden.
don’t need to be found.
The book of Matthew tells stories of men who loved to be found.
Everything they did,
even the things that were meant to be
internal and soul-nourishing,
they displayed on the outside,
making them external and reputation-preserving.
In other words,
it was all about them.
These men, Matthew says, obsessed about their appearance.
They revealed everything they did
to everyone they saw
in order to prove how worthy they were
and everyone thinking so well of them.
But the outsides didn’t match the insides.
Others in Matthew’s book,
– the isolated, damaged, and in pain –
cared not who did
– or did not –
see their struggle,
but begged mercy from the One who could save them,
The One who sees what is done in secret.
Our juicy-morsel-seeking, instant-result-starving culture
would have us believe
that it is
what we let out of ourselves
that defines us.
That what people see of us
is who we are.
That what we leak out
is what our legacy will be.
But what if we could carve a different legacy?
What if we defined ourselves,
not by the things we let out,
but by the things we held back?
What if we were saved
– not by what others saw –
but by what no one sees?
What if we did the caterpillar kind of thing
and carved a cocoon
that carefully cultivated us
into the butterflies we were meant to be?
The hidden harmony is better than the obvious. – Pablo Picasso
He that would live in peace and at ease must not speak all he knows or all he sees. – Benjamin Franklin
there is great value in the layers.
So if I could say anything to you
in a season which may threaten to overwhelm
and cause us to leak parts of ourselves
that might not be ready for general human consumption,
I would invite you
cultivate that cocoon.
Because what’s hidden
doesn’t have to be reserved
only for lies and indiscretions.
Nor must it be only the place we shove all the things we hope no one sees.
it can be a wrap of warmth,
a still space,
to mature the good
and let the inconsistencies be worked on
by One so much more powerful than we are.
Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. – John F. Kennedy
Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man. – Benjamin Franklin.
How about it, friends?
A peaceful Christmas to all of you.
(And a better New Year.)