Weekly Message from T. J.

Well In Hand

As I sat at the gym, I heard it. The blib-blip-bloop came from the tiny device in the child’s hand, and his rapt fixation on the tiny screen and the noises that tracked progress of the characters on the screen was familiar. The pervasiveness of handheld games is almost as complete as handheld devices. And however one may feel about it, I know just about every parent who wants a few minutes of uninterrupted time to complete any of the number of tasks they have in a day has made a kind of peace with “devices.” His mom was busy kicking butt at the gym.

When I was taking a rest from my workout, I was sitting closer to this child and the device he held. And that’s when blip-blip-bloop turned to something I didn’t expect. “And then God created all the birds of the air and the fishes of the sea with all their scales and feathers. And God said that they should multiply.” When the narration stopped, the child began what I suppose was the next adventure on his screen. I will not here suppose what activity the game was prompting him to complete based on this narration—let’s assume he was navigating waterways and the air with electronic fish and birds, shall we?

And I thought of my first time at Hanauma Bay, and the fluted nose of the small flat yellow fish with a black stripe. I thought of the cresting whales (not, fish, I know). I remembered the tiny finches I see everywhere, the golden plovers that hunt for worms on the church grounds, the strange and elegant albatross that nest in a preserve at Kaena Point. I thought of the vast range of sizes, the splendor of the expanse of colors, the variety and abundance of life around us. But the game went on.

“Israel had many good kings like David and his son Solomon. But it also had bad kings like Ahab whose wife Jezebel worshiped the god Baal.” You could fill a library shelf with books about the problems with those two sentences. But there was no library there at the gym—only a child navigating an adventure through beliefs about good and evil, ideas about men and women, philosophies about religion and faith, and stories about life and death. And we beheld together in the space of moments the ancient struggle of too many religions: complexity in our created world and uniformity in belief about it.

My little friend got bored of his game—surprise, surprise. He ambled over to his mother and proceeded promptly to try to wrestle her to the ground. His mom is a well-trained martial artist so her tiny son didn’t present much of a challenge. She had him well in hand. As they rolled around play wrestling, giving a little ground here, taking a little ground there, the deep well of joy in this child bubbled up as uncontrollable laughter. And I wondered about library shelves that only gather dust, games we all discard eventually, arguments that fade with time. And instead we all watched a mother wrap her child in her powerful arms, and it seemed in that moment that “the universe itself was laughing.”[1]

[1] Loren Eiseley, The Unexpected Universe (Harvest Books: Orlando, Florida, 1964) p. 210.

4 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. Scary image in the beginning with a beautiful happy ending. Thinking about balance this month so this was very appropriate. Video games and tv ubiquitous but real people and experiences need to take a greater percentage of time for everyone. I think so much more rewarding at least if good people and an interesting environment are accessible.

  2. Wonderful word-pictures… also, a cautionary tale and warning light… to remember to be and to value being human. Screens can be magical and compelling, also sometimes too easy to be lost in and distracted by. It is a challenge, in todays world of disorienting ambiguity and overwhelming complexity, to keep it real.

  3. Technology is a double-edged sword, for sure. I read “Deep Work” by Cal Newport and realized how my attention span has been affected by my computer….and I don’t even use social media! But I do love that image of mother and son wrestling. I can just imagine his laughter, and it brings a smile to my face. 🙂

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