Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lessons from an iPhone

By Susan Esther Barnes

Last month I wrote about why I bought an iPhone. The moment I got it home, I started searching for Jewish Podcasts to download to it. As soon as I got into my car the following Monday morning, I started listening to what I had gathered, and I listened to them on my commute in both directions every day that week.

On a purely intellectual basis, my favorite regular Podcast is from Ikar. Rabbi Sharon Brous is fabulous – I love her voice and what she has to say. They also get some amazing guest speakers. While you’re there, be sure to buy a copy of one or more of their CDs for some uplifting Shabbat music.

When it comes to deep sermons from the heart, I have yet to find anything better than Rabbi David Wolpe’s offerings. They vary widely in length, which can make it a little hard when trying to plan whether one or more will fit into the length of a car ride, but that just means he isn’t filling any of them with fluff to try to eke out some artificially calculated amount of allotted time.

In the non-Jewish category, I love the often equally deep, short and gutsy monologues from The Moth. They aren’t all of the same caliber, but some of them pack a punch that keeps me thinking for days afterward.

So with all these wonderful presentations, and more, to listen to on my commute, full of knowledge, heart, and deep meaning, why was it that on my drive to work on Friday of that first week, I felt so off kilter? Why did I feel like something had gone wrong? What important thing was I suddenly missing?

It didn’t take long to figure it out. My commute is gorgeous, especially at this time of year. Think green, rolling hills like the ones pictured above. Picture cattle with their new calves, or lambs gamboling. Wetlands and cranes, with an occasional hawk or other birds. White, fluffy clouds with streams of sunlight filtering down.

Often, in the morning when I see these scenes, I thank God for the beauty surrounding me. Then I spend some time hanging out with God, not in formal prayer, but just sharing about whatever is going on in my life: a blog post I’m thinking about, Tuesday morning services, the “Sacred Living, Sacred Dying” booklet we’re working on, whatever.

On that particular week, however, I had spent all of my commute time listening to Podcasts. So instead of seeing the scenery or talking with God, I was concentrating on the spoken word and picturing classrooms and students. The very thing I had done in an attempt to learn more about God and to get closer to God was supplanting my real life time interacting with God. That is why I felt something was so wrong by the end of the week. I was distancing myself from God – the exact opposite of what I had intended to do.

I’m still listening to Podcasts, but not as often any more. Every morning, when I leave for work, I make a conscious decision: Am I going to spend time with God this morning, or am I going to listen to a Podcast? If I choose the Podcast, how am I going to make up the time with God?

Like much of life, it’s all about finding a way to strike a balance. I have more Podcasts available than I can possibly listen to, and more are being recorded every week. It’s a common mistake these days to try to cram more and more things into our daily lives to try to keep up with all the information coming at us, seemingly from all directions.

As my Podcast experience reminded me, filling up my life with activity and sound is not the answer. I need my quiet time, my alone time, my time to just be, and to just hang out with God, with no pre-planned agenda. There is nothing I can get from a Podcast that is going to be more important to me than that. That’s the main lesson I got from my iPhone.

1 comment:

  1. This is the most exciting and unexpected lesson one can get from an iphone...
    Very inspiring story! Thank you for posting it and sharing your experience!