As screens—movies, TV, video games—present a world far more colorful and energetic than the created world itself, they not only ratchet up our expectations for what is significant and entertaining; they also undermine our ability to enjoy what we could call the abundance of the ordinary.
And the ones who used to be able to see this ordinary abundance in all its glory, in all its full capacity to delight and transfix our attention, were children. Children were the ones who simply went out to play in the ordinary world, even with no toys at all, because they had something far better than toys: grass and dirt, worms and beetles, trees and fields. The world they played in was rich, substantial and rewarding of attention: the closer you looked, the more you saw; the more you listened, the more you heard.
This world is lost to many of our children, and to ourselves. Even the “nature” that surrounds many of our homes is shallow in a technological way. A typical suburban lawn depends on many technological devices, each of which makes something far easier than it was for previous generations: lawn mowers, pesticides and fertilizers, highly refined seed and automatic sprinklers. The lawn itself is a kind of outdoor technological device, composed of uniform green grass, kept crew-cut short, with little variety or difference.
So here is one result of our technology: we become people who desperately need entertainment and distraction because we have lost the world of meadows and meteors. Quite literally lost—where can my own children go to see a meadow? How far from the city would we have to drive for them to see a meteor in the night sky? But very nearby are technological forms of distraction, from video games to constantly updated social media. They do little to develop our abilities to wait, pay attention, contemplate and explore—all needed to discover the abundance of the ordinary.
Excerpted with permission from The Tech-Wise Family by Andy Crouch, copyright ©2017.