The other day, I was saying my morning prayers and I decided to say I was grateful for everything I didn’t really like in my life.
I am grateful for bad days.
I am grateful for sticky floors.
I am grateful for toys all over the floor.
I am grateful for when my kids scream.
I am grateful for days when I have nothing to do.
I am grateful for having too much to do sometimes.
I am grateful that I live in the middle of nowhere.
I am grateful for mosquito bites.
I am grateful for for getting hurt.
I am grateful for being tired.
I am grateful for all of it.
And saying that helped me feel grateful. Because a lot of bad things aren’t really that bad, or they are a consequence of good things, or they are at least opportunities for learning and growth. And I am grateful for all of that.
Time moves forward, linearly progressing. After one breath, there comes another.
Your heart beats. After one beat comes another. And another, always moving.
And your thoughts move as well, one after the other.
Notice your thoughts.
While they may seem to jump around in distraction, they are always linear, one after the other after the other. Multiple thoughts don’t exist at the same time. And when the same thought comes back, it is really a different thought, in a new time and a new place.
But in the linear progression of life, we find a constant: YOU.
You are not a collection of thoughts and experiences. You are a single consciousness, aware of yourself and aware of an identity.
And in that identity is awareness of a higher power and of transcendental love.
Throughout all the many moments of life, you are loved.
And when you understand that YOU are loved, the linear nature of life becomes upward, progressing not towards pleasure or satisfaction, but towards that love, and towards the expansion of that love.
When you know you are loved, you will love and share that love.
Your thoughts will turn outward and upward, knowing there is a higher reason.
My five-year-old son had a meltdown today because I suggested he had to play outside before getting on the tablet. So I made a decision that we were going to take the week off of technology.
The tablet is set up for educational purposes. The kid wanted to do math. But I feel like there is something wrong when not doing math right away somehow causes meltdowns. He gets a thrill from working on the tablet. The kid loves screens. But I want him to see there is more to life.
Our schools can applaud the fact they use so much technology. It improves test scores. It can increase how much they learn. In some ways, it is good. I’m not against it, really.
But then I wonder: are we forgetting how to create? How to play? How to connect with others? Technology makes everything so easy so maybe we forget how to do hard things.
I’m reading a book about a little boy who goes and herds cattle when he is eight or nine years old. He knows how to work hard. My kids barely help me clean the house.
Sure, the kids might be smart from all the technology, but have we overvalued being smart and sacrificed other values, like hard work, compassion, creativity, self-control, and basic morality?
So we will have a break. I want my kids to be smart too, but technology should not be their priority.
I teach 16/17-year-olds in a class at church. One kid does not have a smartphone. I told him that means his parents love him. I mentioned how much I regulate my own phone: no browser, no games, just the things that actually help my life. Depriving yourself of some things can open up the world.
Update: We have done less technology lately and I like it. My kids watch television, but there is almost always a time limit every day for them and they don’t complain when it shuts off automatically. We listen to podcasts and audiobooks of car rides. My kids read actual physical books quite a lot. They sometimes ask to play on my computer, but I rarely let them. We do play Pokemon Go sometimes, but not too frequently. We have an Amazon Alexa Dot and my kids enjoy that, but there is no screen involved.
I am happier (and probably smarter) when I watch less YouTube videos, when I read less random articles on the internet, and when I am going outside and reading books more often.
I liked a quote I heard recently that technology should be a servant, not a master, and I completely agree. Also, there are lots of other things that fall into this category of being a better servant than a master, like money or fire or hobbies or careers or entertainment or homes or just about anything. Because what we really want our values to be are things like serving God, helping others, building families, and becoming better people, and when we prioritize other things, our life gets out of balance.