Some of you may read this while watching the presidential debate and otherwise multitasking your way through the competing interests of the evening. Stop it, Fr. David Ousley would tell you.
The whole idea of multitasking as something good is based on the assumption that life is about getting things done. I admit that the world often operates as though this were the case (and when we are being worldly, we do too). But it is false. Human life, and Christian life, is more about love than about accomplishments.
How would lovers think of multitasking? Would the young woman being courted, be pleased to have her lover texting while they are on a date? Would she not justly expect that he would pay attention to her and her alone when they were together? Is not this of the essence of love?
Fr. Ousley is the rector of the Ordinariate parish in Philadelphia, St. Michael the Archangel, and, I am pleased to say, a friend. Writing in the October issue of his Rector’s Chronicle, he points out that the practice of multi-tasking in everyday matters affects our prayer life:
How we deal with the mundane things – work, home, driving, etc. – affects what happens when we come to prayer. If we cultivate distractedness, as, for example, by multitasking, then we will bring distractedness to our prayer. If, on the other hand, we cultivate attention, this will bear fruit at the time of prayer. I would suggest therefore that we renounce multitasking, and strive to do one thing at a time, so far as that is possible. . . .
This may mean that we put the cell phone aside and ignore the incoming texts so that we can attend to something else. Itmay mean turning off the television or radio which we have kept on in the background. It certainly means that we strive to attend to the one thing before us, and cultivate the discipline of single-tasking, so far a possible. This will be counter-cultural, and we must be prepared for being out of sync with the world around us. But this is often true for Christians, and we might as well get used to it.
This reminds me of the lines of Pascal’s on our need to distract ourselves from life, like “The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room” and “We prefer the hunt to the capture.”
My thanks to another friend, Richard Smith, for the lead. Blessed is the man whose friends write well and read well.