By Ricardo Márquez
After shopping with one of my grown sons, we arrived home and, after putting away the bags, we sat in the living room and each of us instinctively reached for our cell phones to review emails and messages. We had had a previous conversation about the impact electronic devices have on our relationships, their advantages and their risks.
We had acknowledged that cell phones, in particular, have transformed our lives. The greatest impact we recognized was the subconscious addiction we have developed to continually review our texts and messages, and how difficult it is to set the phone aside for a while.
Human beings are not wired to process constant electromagnetic stimuli; we’re receiving much more information than our capacity to process it. This creates a breeding ground for confusion, anxiety and tension, all of which we experience. Without the stimulus of curiosity that the phone sparks, we feel a void that we fill by impulsively picking up the phone.
After a couple of minutes on our phones, we suddenly looked at each other, instantly recalled our conversation, recognized the incongruence of what we were doing, and almost simultaneously put down our phones.
“The truth is that we lose this moment, the ‘here and now’ that we have to talk to one another, to come together,” my son said.
We spend months without seeing each other and, when we’re together, we get distracted to read or send messages to those not present. This awareness led us spontaneously to ask simple questions, to begin to connect: What are your plans? How is work going? How are you feeling?
We began to talk in another frequency, the one that connects hearts, and shares the tensions that we are experiencing, the dreams that move us, the doubts that follow us, and the faith and hope that inspire us.
Time flew by and we craved more; along the way, we shared words, “pearls” that came from the heart, gems of life and intimacy.
“It was good for me to talk; it helped me clear up some things that I believed I couldn’t talk to you about. Thank you for sharing. I feel closer to you …”
At the end of our lives, we will be asked about love. I will talk about this moment. You don’t forget these moments because our emotional memory endures, it’s like an advance on eternity. Moments of closeness and intimacy are simple, deep, enjoyable. What else can you ask for? They are a blessing and a grace, but you also have to cultivate them, you have to ask for them.
You can have comforts and material goods, you can have degrees and titles, but these types of moments can’t be bought or sold. They simply are and they are a gift, a gift from the God of life, who reminds us of the message of Jesus: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
When individuals encounter one another, they will recognize the immensity of the mystery in the other, feel in communion, and experience the origin of everything created and worth living for.
Experiencing human communion and nourishing the intimacy of family relationships today occurs, paradoxically, when we set aside a small electronic device. It’s in your hands; try it, and let the encounter amaze you.
Ricardo Márquez is associate director of the Diocese of San Diego’s Office for Family Life and Spirituality.