Smartphones and daydreams

| Ginny Kubitz Moyer | July 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

I have very few stare-off-into-space moments these days. Nearly every minute is filled with something claiming my attention. I can’t blame this entirely on my two young kids, nor can I blame it on the teaching job that claims vast amounts of attention 10 months out of the year. These are factors in my busy-ness, yes, but there’s another, more insidious force that always seems to fill the empty spaces in my life.

That force is the Internet.

Earlier this year, my high school students and I were reading William Wordsworth’s famous poem “I wandered lonely as a cloud.” In the poem, the narrator recalls walking alone through the countryside and coming upon a lakeshore covered with thousands of daffodils. In the last stanza, he says that when he finds himself “in vacant or in pensive mood,” the memory of those daffodils comes back to him, filling his heart with pleasure.

I’ve read and taught this poem countless times, but this year, the words “in vacant and in pensive mood” struck me anew. Is there a better way to describe daydreaming? Wordsworth perfectly captures that state of not actively thinking of anything else, not actively doing anything else . . . just being open to wherever our thoughts lead us.

And it hit me: I am rarely in a vacant or pensive mood anymore, because there is always something to fill those empty moments. It’s a small rectangular something that I carry in my purse. With a few swipes and taps I’m able to access email, Facebook, my favorite clothing website.

This means I no longer have random moments of daydreaming when I’m waiting in line for coffee or at the bank. I fill those moments with a quick check of tomorrow’s weather, or a quick read of a blogpost. It’s lovely, this ability to be so connected . . . but it comes at a cost. I fear that I’m losing the habit of simply waiting, simply being, without needing to distract myself.

This feels like a spiritual issue, primarily. Yes, online resources do feed my faith; I have my favorite prayer sites, and as a blogger myself, I love the community that can be created through the Internet. But dreaming time without an agenda is crucial to knowing myself and God more deeply.

As a parent, I’ve noticed that when my kids have blocks of unscheduled free time, they get wondrously imaginative, writing stories and tapping into creative depths that always surprise me. Likewise, if I give myself time to daydream, those moments that initially seem empty end up being filled with new ideas, with vivid memories or images that I’m processing from the day.

When I’m busy chasing information on my phone, those ideas and memories and images don’t have a chance to find me. And so often God comes to me in precisely that way, in the feelings that swirl up and take me by surprise, in the still small moments when I’m not scrolling down a screen.

So I’m resolving to remember this the next time I’m stuck in a line somewhere. Instead of filling the time with my phone, I’ll let myself slip into a vacant and pensive mood, open to whatever comes.

It may be a lovely memory of the gentle beauty of nature. It may be a snippet of an idea that later fires my creativity. It may be God nudging me in a certain direction. It may be all of the above.

Whatever it is, I don’t want to miss it.

Kubitz Moyer is the author of Random MOMents of Grace: Experiencing God in the Adventures of Motherhood. She blogs at RandomActsofMomness.com.

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Category: Commentary