Six years ago when the iPhone first hit the market, my legs were swinging off the front end of the bandwagon. I was looking for a productivity tool, and technology delivered. One unintended consequence was the accelerated pace of my day. I was not always getting more done, but I was always doing something which felt productive.
The smart-phone pose (hunched over a tiny screen) now seems normal. We’ve become trained “reactors” one little ping and vibration at a time. Technology can make life easier; it also can create an endless stream of urgent moments requiring our immediate attention. In an age where human value rests too much upon performance, the feeling of productivity can be addictive. To borrow an analogy from football, instead of huddling up and then executing a play, we incessantly nudge the ball down the field one inch at a time.
Modern life presses us to become reactors.
Everyone over-reacts on occasion. We all know what that looks like. However, reactivity in general is not where you want to live, even if you’re able to keep emotions in check. Nor does a poker face bring an honest substitute for over-reacting. As Dallas Willard, author of The Divine Conspiracy, put it, some people are just “hiding behind their faces.”
Dogs and Cats
To illustrate, as someone described to me, “Some people are dogs and others are cats.” Being aloof like a cat, especially when driven by insecurity, is a type of reaction. Engaging like a dog, especially when driven by the need for approval, is a type of reaction.
So what’s the alternative to dogs and cats? The trendy word describing it is “intentional.” We must develop the character to live and respond on purpose. Even in the heat of the moment we can learn to be proactive. How do you get there? Gaining a sincere non-anxious presence results from habits which cultivate trust. Think of it as marinating in healthier juices so that when you’re squeezed, what comes out is sweet. Habits can influence our character, whether spending consistent time in prayer or reacting to the latest tweet.
Blaise Pascal quipped, “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.