My brother Patrick died of AIDS right before his 30th birthday. In the aftermath, I came upon a profound truth; our lives are comprised of reminders and distractions. Reminders being those things that help us to remember what is most important to us. Distractions being those things that divert our attention from what matters most.
These days we seem to be on an accelerated course of distraction as we play with and marvel at all the new “opportunities” we have via the screen technologies. This is nowhere more evident than with our children where the technologies offer continual and seemingly infinite avenues of distraction from their bodies, relationships, homework, time spent in nature, creative and reflective time, and on and on it goes. But how could they possibly know anything different given the way the grown-ups and the influences in their lives have made the technologies mean so much. And too often, too much.
In the work I do with families and college students around the impact of technology on their lives, I have literally amassed hundreds and hundreds of pages full of ideas, musings and suggestions. Indeed, I am regularly overwhelmed by the enormity of influence the screens are having on our homes and in our lives. However, when I cut through it all, it distills down to one essential question; “Do you know what matters most to you in all the world and are you living into that?” Knowing the answer to this is what provides us with the clarity and the protection we need to be in the presence of such powerful and pervasive distractions.
So, do you know what matters most to you? And while you may have an answer you would give in the tender and vulnerable moments of your life, are you actually living that, day to day? If someone followed you around day in and day out, noting what you did, how you spent your time, money and energy, what would they come up with? What would your kids say in an uncensored moment?
We teach our children the wrong thing when we teach them to live in a perpetual state of screen distraction. And, just like my brother, we will all die. The question then becomes; will we have lived and taught our children to live lives that mattered?