I missed this June article by Fr. James Martin, SJ, about how our spiritual lives are affected by the digital age. (The piece in The Huffington Post was adapted from his new book, The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.)
Other articles like this one have come out detailing the ways electronic media is changing how we relate and live, as well as how it’s re-wiring our brains. Fr. Martin says that while tech gadgets are great at keeping us in touch with people and information, they also steal the few remaining moments we have for solitude — time we need for God:
…without some inner silence, it becomes harder to listen to God’s voice within. It is more difficult to hear the “small, still” sound, as the First Book of Kings described God’s voice. If your eyes are glued to your iPad and your ears stopped up by your iPod, it’s hard to hear what might be going on inside you.
“Deep calls to deep,” says Psalm 42. But what if you can’t hear the deep?
Some of our digital busyness, says Fr. Martin, is related to our tendency to over-work, which takes us away from solitude and prayer. And solitude very much includes our physical health:
Giving yourself the gift of solitude may mean allowing yourself time for rest and exercise, a necessary ingredient for a healthy life. This may include saying “no” to things… Saying “no” to some non-essentials and avoiding the constant rush that seems to characterize our lives (including my own) is a way of saying “yes” to a more balanced way of living.
Fr. Martin recounts how St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, came to believe that caring for one’s body was important for the soul and mind:
In the Constitutions he wrote up for the Jesuits, he placed a surprising emphasis on the need to attend to a “proper concern with the preservation of one’s health.” In a section entitled “The Preservation of the Body,” the saint (one of the original mulitaskers) talks about the need for a balance between work, prayer and rest, based on his own early experience, when he favored extreme penances that damaged his health. Ultimately, he recognized the need for moderation. “With a healthy body, you will be able to do much,” he once wrote to a friend.
For Ignatius, the requirements for a healthy life includes maintaining a “regular” schedule, and caring for “food, clothing, living quarters, and other bodily needs.” He recognized the need for exercise, even for sedentary Jesuits…