Monday, March 16, 2009

Discovering An Addiction

I’ve just returned from eight glorious days at sea with my lovely wife of twenty years. After much deliberation, we finally decided to spend this landmark anniversary on a cruise of the Caribbean. It was inspiring!

As we were packing and planning the week before the trip, my wife asked about the possibility of leaving our laptops at home and trying to spend the entire trip sans computer. Much to her surprise, I readily agreed. It might have been a bit of a surprise to me to consider such a thing.

Armed only with my Blackberry (so we could stay in daily touch with the kids), we headed out the door. It’s really amazing how light you can travel without the burden of the laptop bag, and it makes the security check at the airport just a little easier.

In our society, we are surrounded every day by addiction temptations. Internet addiction may not seem as grievous as some temptations, but I now have a much deeper understanding of how much time it steals. Had I brought my computer along on the trip and made a simple promise to only check it twice a day (something I considered), I would have likely been unable to resist and would have spent a great deal of time “checking the news” or “watching the stock market”. Instead, I made a conscious effort simply to talk with my wife over a meal, or find fun things in which to share our time together and make this week truly memorable. Eight days in a row of being Internet-free has a sobering effect.

Let me tell you what brought it all even more to light for me. We had a balcony room on the ship and we tried to use it often. But it was hard to do so, because our next-door neighbors insisted on smoking on their balcony at least twenty times a day. We rarely sat on our balcony for more than a few minutes without having to endure the noxious fumes. I felt sadness for them instead of anger, though, because this couple spent the majority of their time together inhaling cigarette smoke, without a word between them. As I write these words (with paper and pencil, mind you), they came out on the balcony yet again. And the analogy came to me.

How much time do I spend apart from my wife, my kids, my church, my friends, and people in need just because I want to keep up with the latest happenings in the world? The answer is – too much. Like my neighbors on the boat, who missed every shore excursion and every fun-filled meal in the boat’s excellent dining room (where we laughed and developed a friendship with Don and Ann, Gary and Tara, Derek and Nadine), I can miss what’s really important in this life. All too soon, these opportunities will be gone. I will have missed out on the chance to deepen my relationship with people, in exchange for knowing more about a world I neither admire nor wish to imitate. Stated that way, is there any doubt what change I should make when I get home? Honestly, is there a drawback to becoming addicted to people instead of news, sports and money?

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