Twitter Revolves Around You; the World Does Not

We’ve all seen the articles about how we spend too much time on social media and not enough time “being present” with those who are physically in front of us. We’ve been exhorted to turn off our phones and have face-to-face conversations. Blah blah blah.

That’s not what we’re going to talk about today, so don’t check out just yet.

Twitter is fun. Twitter is its own community, and it allows you to carry a large number of friends around with you in your pocket, everywhere you go. It allows you something to do while you’re stuck in a long line. It provides a place for you to share weird conversations you overhear in public. You can take pictures of what you’re doing and share that very moment, rather than wait ’til you get home.

These things are all great when you’re out and about alone. But, when you are with other people, and you’re live tweeting your friends’ conversations, and pictures of what you and your friends and family are doing, you’re essentially taking something that isn’t about you, and making it all about you.

Instead of your wife’s labor and delivery process being about the child the two of you are bringing into this world, and the special moment that is for your family, and the incredible amount of effort and pain and beauty that is the child-birthing process, live tweeting it makes it about your annoying mother-in-law, who treats you like a moron; about your long and boring wait outside the labor and delivery room; about the grossness of a C-section.

Instead of your seniors’ graduations being about their accomplishments and achievements and the futures and possibilities that loom ahead of them, live tweeting them makes it about you being there; about the boring ceremony you had to endure; about how great of a youth worker you are.

Instead of your sister’s wedding being about her and her partner joining together for a lifetime, live tweeting it makes it about how good you look in your dress; about the awkward, too-long hug you got from Uncle Bernard; about the mess you made of the chocolate fondue at the reception.

It’s okay to accumulate stories about your long wait in the delivery room, about how you got stuck sitting behind the seven-foot-tall man at graduation; about how you made a total fool of yourself at the chocolate fondue station, and then later on the dance floor. These are all ways that we personalize our experiences and relive them later, with friends. But should we live tweet them as they happen?

This article both is and is not about being present. As it turns out, everyone who has come before, and said that we should make an effort to put down our phones and be present, is right—because, once we do that, we will be far less inclined to find a way to make the world revolve around ourselves.


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The Hope of Despair

Ecclesiastes says there is a time for everything under the sun.

The Christian calendar says Advent is the time for (among other things) hope.

So what do we do when we do not feel hopeful during Advent? Do we say, “Welp, maybe next year” ? Do we guilt ourselves into feeling falsely hopeful? How do we handle this declared time of hope during a time in our lives that feels only desperate? If this has not happened to you yet—if you’ve managed to live all the years of your life without experiencing sadness or some other emotion adverse to the meaning of Advent during this season—then trust us. It almost assuredly will happen someday—because life and tragedy do not care about timing or the Christian calendar.

What lesson is there to learn from feeling like we are in opposition to what is supposed to be? Surely the lesson is not that we’re wrong, or that life is unfair.

If you’ve ever felt hopeless during the Advent season, consider how Bob Cratchit felt. Better yet, consider how Ebenezer Scrooge felt. Consider how the teenaged, pregnant, virgin Mary felt.

It’s not wrong to feel hopeless. But the beauty of hopelessness is that, without simple hope, the absence of hope—despair—could not exist. To know hopelessness, we must have at some time or other known hope. Right?

Hellen Keller once said that, in a life full of only joy, no one would ever know bravery or patience. In a life without despair, then, would we ever know hope?

Perhaps you don’t know hope today. But I’m willing to bet that you have, at one time. Cling to your memory of hope. It will come around again. Nothing—good or bad—lasts forever.

Love Is

It’s a natural human behavior to work for approval, to work to be worthy of something—whether that something is love, achievement, honor, whatever. There is something innate in humans—even those born with silver spoons in their mouths—that says that working to prove one’s worth is normal and natural, and from the time we are capable of the slightest reason, we begin to do this, starting with our own parents and guardians and protectors.

What it takes us so long to understand, though, is that parents love us because we just are. We may understand that eventually, once we’ve had our own children and have experienced the deep welling-up and intensity of love at first sight, of instant affection based solely on one’s very existence. Before we had our own children, we may have even experienced those emotions when our closest friends had kids, or our siblings produced our first nieces and nephews. When confronted with the presence of an infant, or a small child—one young enough to not have made any choices yet—it is very easy to understand how love just is. How it doesn’t have to be forced, or conditionalized, or coaxed, or explained. It just is.

These are the types of moments we have in life that give us a microcosm of understanding of how God views us. And a microcosm of understanding of what God was getting at when God said to Moses from the burning bush, “I AM.”