Take a quick look around for a moment. How many smartphones, laptops, and new cars do you see? Probably quite a few. You might even own one or more of these yourself; I know I do. Have you ever stopped and compared your life now to the life you or your elders had before all of these inventions? Are you happier now that you are connected all the time to your work while at home? Now that you have the ability to do everything in less time and with greater ease or efficiently, are you getting to do those things that you love like gardening or working on an old car? Or do you spend your new found free time trying to unclench your mind from the daily grind in front of the television because you could not handle the thought and effort required to work on that car or garden of yours? Modern man keeps moving faster and faster but he knows even less his destination.
In this day and age we keep striving for more, to do more, to live longer, to have more, but for what end? Man seems to equate having more with being virtuous and good, but this does not seem to be the case. Modern man seems to be settling for less, for a mediocre amount of happiness, while convincing himself that he is striving for and has more but really he has lost sight of his end. By moving faster and more efficiently, man is cutting out the byways and circuitous routes which he would have taken to arrive at a point. By depriving himself of the extra time for reflection and peace after a journey, he deprives himself of the ability to better know himself, to better understand his own personality. For there is the possibility that in the extra length of the journey that one might find himself responding to a trial in a different way that has yet to be experienced. In Liturgy and Personality, Hildebrand says
“Men have ceased to understand what an indispensable function the superfluous
so-called ‘bywork’ possesses; ...they want to fabricate things brutally, from the
outside, without any sense of the dramatic character of the being’s unfolding
itself in time.”(1)
Yes, we do something for the result of it but if we do not take time to fully appreciate and understand how we got to that result, then we do not grow as we ought. We act as little more than a machine trying to accomplish a goal. For example, as a student I have quite a few papers to write. I must often go through the process of going to the library, researching, writing outlines, and formulating my paper into a cohesive whole. If I happen to be writing on a topic that that does not interest me, I would choose to cut back on research and forgo writing the outline. By this I lose the struggle that I would normally experience by doing research. By this loss, I partially lack in the growth and self-knowledge that I might have experienced by doing this research. I settle and allow for a lesser version of myself. Man does not exist in this world to be a mediocre and content version of himself. We ought to be fully ourselves and do all that we can attain this fullness, for it is by this that we are truly on the path to attaining happiness.
Does that mean that we should give up our smartphones and laptops because they keep us from going along a path that makes us more aware? Of course not, we simply must step away from our technology for a while and fight our way through the thick of a trial, not just find a simple solution so that we attain the end we had in mind all along.
(1)Dietrich von Hildebrand, Liturgy and Personality (Baltimore: Helicon Press, 1960), page 85
Smartphone and Globe