Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Mobile Breakfasts

I remember the time because of the incident. It was 07.40, at breakfast in a city hotel. I was just starting on by cooked breakfast and the man at the table beside me on my left was halfway through his. Only he had a fork in his right hand, with which he was trying to cut his bacon, and his mobile phone in his left, deep in business conversation with some invisible person. Just then a noise like a train whistle (literally!) came from the mobile of a man at a table to my right! With no attempt to speak quietly he proceeded to converse with his invisible caller. Hedged between the two I got on with my breakfast muttering self-righteously to myself why the world could not be more like my mobile-left-in-the-bedroom self!

I'm not that often in hotels for breakfast but I suspect that this incident was not uncommon and is symptomatic of what our world has become; so ultra-busy that not even half an hour can be devoted to eating breakfast in peace and to contemplating the day ahead! Mobile phones have to be managed at the same time as cutlery. Diary entries, appointments, cancellations, agendas, strategies and financial statistics spill out of a mouth with which we try simultaneously to intake bacon, egg and black pudding! It gives a new dimension to "don't speak with your mouth full!"

Electronic media and microtechnology are essential in today's world. Computers, television, the internet, mobile phones, tablets, texting and emails are part of everyday communication, information and entertainment. They have made our world so much more efficient than a generation ago. But they have not made it a happier one. Our "efficiency" has contributed hugely to individualism, introversion, and isolation, with an adverse effect on conversation (direct person-to-person), prayer, community, personal witness and private contemplation. 

The Sabbath principle in the Bible is not simply about a certain day of the week or going to church; it's more about the principle of rest which has been set by a wise Creator for human beings who otherwise, or more often despite it, would work and stress themselves to death, as many indeed do. Biblical "rest" involves refreshment - spiritual, mental and physical. A people's attitude to the Lord's Day says a lot about their priority in life. So does one's attitude to breakfast as well as one's relationship with a mobile phone! Text "resting 4 30 mins" next time you have a flurry of mobile activity and see what happens!

If my talking neighbour had done no more than silently reflect on what was on his breakfast plate - bacon, egg, black pudding, where these had come from, what they really tasted like - this would at least have been short rest from the hectic world and noise of business and commerce. And of course if he had left his phone in his bedroom and engaged in conversation I could have told him that the black pudding was made in Stornoway, and asked if he had ever been there or knew anything about life there, and did he belong to any church himself, and......and! 

But he didn't, and I left him as I found him, with his now cold breakfast and his ever-hot mobile! I'm sure if C. S. Lewis were alive and writing his "Screwtape Letters" today, mobile phone use would have featured frequently in Uncle Screwtape's advice!