Monday, April 29, 2013

Apocalypse Now

"Dad, what's a zombie?" Crafty asked from the back seat. We were driving to my parents house and the kids were talking about legends and myths. We had discussed Big Foot, who we decided might actually be Dude (he has huge feet and smells bad, apparently) and The Loch Ness Monster and vampires. Now it was the zombie question.

"Well, zombies aren't real. But people say they are people who aren't dead but they aren't really alive either. They just eat and grunt and don't really know how to interact with others." Mr. Awesome answered.

"Remind you of anyone?" I snickered. Mr. Awesome nodded and laughed.

Dude had had his face in his iPod for an hour and a half. We had tried to engage him in conversation but all we got out of him were a few random grunts. The only time he'd spoken real words to us on the drive was to ask when we were having lunch. He was surly, distant and rude. I was annoyed.

Zombies and kids. Zombies and kids. There's something there ...

Here's what I know about zombies. They breath and move and take care of their basic survival needs, like eating, but they aren't really living. They don't acknowledge others around them, unless they are being bothered by them. In that case their 'acknowledgement' is harsh, rude and self serving. They are temperamental and spend a lot of time hunting and killing the weak and vulnerable.

Hmmm ... sounds vaguely familiar.

Here's what I know about teens. They are alive but aren't living in our world, for the most part. They spend their days disconnected with real, living people in favour of virtual realities. Their minds are engaged with building virtual worlds, hunting and killing virtual animals, people and even zombies. The bulk of their interactions with the other Unalive is in the form of text shorthand and, more often than not, they are sitting in the same room as them. When you do finally get one of these teen creatures to lift their heads from their devices what you often get is a temperamental, self-serving and rude interaction.

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now. Only its not some random virus that has claimed our brains ... its technology.

Seriously, think about the last time you were waiting for a table at a restaurant, waiting in a doctor's office or, well, just plain waiting anywhere. What were the other waiting people doing? You can't recall? You probably missed it because you were doing what they were doing. Playing on your phone. Checking emails and text messages. Trying to get to the next level in Candy Crush. You were in your own world. And so was everyone else around you.

What happened to people watching? To having random conversations with strangers? To being okay with having a quiet mind?

I totally get the need to shut your mind off for a while. I enjoy a good round of Candy Crush as much as the next person but what concerns me is that our kids aren't learning the art of conversation. For instance, I was recently having a conversation with a man who teaches Sunday School to a group of junior high boys. He was exasperated because no matter how hard he tries, he can't engage them in conversation. His statement to me was, "I don't even think they know how to talk to each other."

Sad but true.

Technology is great, it is convenient and connects us in ways that we were never able to connect before. But if we're not careful, it can disconnect us in ways that can be so detrimental to our sense of community. We need people. We were created for relationship. And just to be clear, relationship is not a status on your Facebook page.

Relationship is a living breathing thing. It thrives under care, communication and time. It requires face to face human contact. It requires a measure of selflessness. It requires an interest in others. It also requires intention. We need to be intentional about building relationships and teaching our kids how to build relationships. They need to see us interacting with one another, caring about the people in our world and spending time cultivating friendship. They need to see it so that means we have to do it and we need to call their attention to it. We need to pry their Unalive hands off their lifeless devices and engage them in the world around them. We need to wake them up to the wonderful thing that is this life!

We are living in a zombie apocalypse right now but its not too late. We can reclaim the Unalive, whether adult or child. We can teach them how to live again. We can build relationships and waken them to the magnificent thing that is community!

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.
~Albert Einstein

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