A friend of mine once asked me to pray for a loved one who had terminal cancer. How striking that word "terminal." We've written term papers, perhaps purchased term insurance and when we've traveled, we've departed from the terminal at the airport. My prayer for that friend's loved one was not merely that they would survive the cancer, but that they would understand that life, for all of us, is a journey that ends. Too often, we don't think about our destination until we've already arrived.
Traveling two weeks ago put me in touch once again with the various techniques of travel among my fellow Americans. In my walk back from the restroom, I saw passengers watching movies on their laptops, reading, sleeping, video-gaming, and listening to what I refer to as I.P.I.D.'s, Irritating Personal Isolation Devices(IPods). In 5 plane trips, I noticed only one traveler journaling in an old fashioned leather bound book, once a common habit among travelers. When we traveled to Indonesia in 1992 with Laura, who was not yet two years old, the cabin looked and sounded distinclty different. In those very long 32 hours I think two movies were shown(but they did serve food). Boredom took on a whole new meaning. We distracted Laura by handing her playing cards one by one until she had all 52 in her wall-mounted bassinet. Then,for excitement,she handed them back to us one at a time. And we repeated this insanity several times. At that point, any diversion was welcomed. Now traveling is easy. Distractions abound. A few movies, a few missed episodes of your favorite show downloaded on the laptop, and presto, you're there! The cabins of planes today are remarkably quiet. The passengers are amused and distracted. Flight attendants couldn't be happier.
Distractions are not limited to travel. One could easily spend one's entire day surfing the Internet, watching television, checking out Facebook, and playing video games. Neil Postman, in his book, Amusine Ourselves to Death, points out the dangers of a culture that is fed and bred on daily doses of entertainment. He challenges his readers with the idea that if everything is easy, we will never accomplish hard things and we may be easily led astray by foolish politics and practices. He argues that amusement as a lifestyle goal or regular habit will cripple our families, our schools, our economy, our culture.
I would add one thing to Mr Postman's argument. I'm not just concerned that our culture is becoming less educated and more vulnerable politically and economically. I'm concerned that our culture is becoming more vulnerable spiritually as well. I believe that we were made to have a relationship with the ONE who made us. He set us on the course of this journey we call life to know Him and be known by Him. Every journey has an end. Every life is terminal. C.S.Lewis said that Heaven is a destination where all the inhabitatnts say to God, "THY will be done." On the other hand, he says, Hell is a destination for those to whom God says "thy will be done." Our life. Our destination. Our choice. But do we ever really think about this? Do we ever really contemplate our destination? Why should we when we have every distraction from our terminal condition possible? Plug in the I.P.I.D. and watch another movie. "Could I have another drink please with the can this time? And those little pretzels, too?"