Laudato Si and Hamsters

I relate to these little guys…

Yes, I have fur growing all over my body. I drink water out of a plastic bottle that is three times the size of me, and occasionally I like to play hide and seek with shredded wood chips… well okay, most of that stuff I can’t really relate to. I am thinking about getting that massive water bottle though, and I believe playing in wood chips could be a life changing experience!

Seriously though, sometimes I do relate to the feeling of being flung from a hamster wheel out of control! Have you ever felt that way? Life can be out of control! There are so many things happening: text messages, e-mails, phone calls, decision making, deadlines, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. These are enough to bring people anxiety separately, but together, it’s insane!

I remember when I thought I was pretty cool setting up a Facebook profile, listening to music on a CD player, and using a flip-phone… one that my friend let me borrow.

But now, just when you think you are “up-to-date” on the latest technologies or newest trends, it seems as though you fall behind days later.

Maybe it’s my disposition. I know there will always be change and things that stress us, but I get the sense that sometimes we create unnecessary stress for ourselves. It’s like we’re the hamsters on this wheel of life just trying to outlast the other guy.

I heard this song by The Head and the Heart called “Let’s Be Still” on a commercial last month and I began to understand that I am not the only one who feels completely overwhelmed by the pace of the world sometimes:  

“The world's just spinning /A little too fast / If things don't slow down soon we might not last. /So just for the moment, let's be still.”

Funny enough, after reading some of the latest encyclical by Pope Francis, “Laudato Si” (On care for our common home) I get the sense that he feels similarly about the “hamster-wheel” effect:

“The continued acceleration of changes affecting humanity and the planet is coupled today with a more intensified pace of life and work, which might be called “rapidification”. Although change is part of the working of complex systems, the speed with which human activity has developed contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution. Moreover, the goals of this rapid and constant change are not necessarily geared to the common good or to integral and sustainable human development. Change is something desirable, yet it becomes a source of anxiety when it causes harm to the world and to the quality of life of much of humanity.” -Laudate Si, 18.

I know that Pope Francis is addressing the environment, but I also think he is hitting on an overarching problem with how we advance. We are moving so fast that we’re spinning out of control, forgetting what the point of advancement is. It should help us better care for creation, our brothers and sisters we share it with, and even ourselves.

We are progressing so quickly and at the same time not reflecting on what these changes imply now or for the future. We are not even allowing people to adjust to these changes.

We push on unconcerned or unaware with how these various advancements will affect human development socially, psychologically, or spiritually. We have begun to do so much for the sake of “progress” without actually thinking about if these new ideas and technologies are actually helping us to truly advance.

Now don’t get me wrong, advancements in technology and change can be used for great good and can help society as a whole! I would love to see technology bring us together and help us have more real and meaningful human interactions.

We know the next “new” thing is just around the bend. I guess I would just ask everyone, myself included, a few questions for when it arrives.

  • How will this help us relate to each other in a more meaningful way, or is this just going to make it easier to treat people as if they are not real?

  • Is this going to truly help us work together in an intentional way or is it just going keep us separately working in our own disconnected cells?

  • Is this going to give us more time to spend with those we love or is it going to give us more excuses to avoid eye contact with other people and ignore awkward interactions with people we have little in common with? (Interactions which while painful at first could help us improve our capacity to love.)

  • Is this going to really allow us to connect with others or just give the impression that we are?

I will leave you with one final quote to ponder:

“When we ask ourselves what kind of world we want to leave behind, we think in the first place of its general direction, its meaning and its values. Unless we struggle with these deeper issues, I do not believe that our concern for ecology will produce significant results. But if these issues are courageously faced, we are led inexorably to ask other pointed questions: What is the purpose of our life in this world? Why are we here? What is the goal of our work and all our efforts? What need does the earth have of us? It is no longer enough, then, simply to state that we should be concerned for future generations. We need to see that what is at stake is our own dignity… The issue is one, which dramatically affects us, for it has to do with the ultimate meaning of our earthly sojourn.” -Laudate Si, 160

God our Father, gather us together in a prayer. Allow us clarity to sift through changes coming ahead and know what is true, beautiful and good (Phil 4:8) for us as a society now and in the future. We need your Spirit of Truth (Jn 14:17) for understanding what we should do. Jesus, may every advance bring us closer to Your heart, which desires that we may all be one as you are one (Jn 17:22). We ask this in Your most holy name, amen.