I start my day leisurely fighting zombies in my bedroom. You know, the usual morning routine.
Then my favorite indie pop band shows up to play my favorite song, a surprise living room concert for one—until breaking news interrupts the party: “Cat Does Adorable Thing You Won’t Want to Miss!”
This isn’t a cheesy dream sequence in a bad movie. It’s a typical scene from my hyperdistracted, perpetually connected existence, lived one phone charge at a time. It’s never boring. It’s frequently exhausting. And we haven’t even reached breakfast yet.
I Pledge Allegiance to My Phone
From the moment I wake until the moment I doze off at night, half listening to a podcast, I’m swimming in distractions. My phone, which may as well be grafted to my hand at this point, is an endless stream of status updates and selfies, retweets and reblogs, emails and every episode of my favorite 90s sitcom. Each buzz or beep heralds the arrival of some exciting novelty, pulling my attention to the screen’s friendly glow. I absolutely love it.
But love comes with a cost. With my head so frequently in the cloud, I’ve become an expert at being somewhere without actually being there. If attention is the currency of our lives and each of us has a finite amount to give, then my account is overdrawn. My attention span has been poked and push-notified to death.
The Big Hang Up
This story isn’t about phones though. It doesn’t end with some profound personal breakthrough either, where I power-down my devices and suddenly achieve perfect mindfulness. It’s smaller and simpler than that—and it’s about signs.
I almost missed it, I’m embarrassed to tell you, the Sunday afternoon last conference when Elder Nelson talked about the Sabbath day. My body was planted in front of the TV broadcast, but my mind was bouncing somewhere between a game of Angry Birds and the Wikipedia entry for “History of the chair.”
But I managed, in spite of myself, to glean a key point: what if, instead of treating the Sabbath as a list of dos and don’ts, we treated it as a sign to Heavenly Father—a chance to express our love, gratitude, and discipleship?
What sign did I want to give? And what sign was I giving at that moment on that Sabbath day—and also during so many Sunday School and elders quorum meetings—when I was physically present but mentally elsewhere? Not only to God, but to those around me.
“Thou shalt not text in sacrament meeting” isn’t written anywhere in the books. But maybe my Sabbath sign—my expression that I cared—could be as simple as paying a little more attention.