Friday, August 4, 2017

Driven to Distraction, Called to Attentiveness

Dear Parish Faithful,

Did You Know?

"Beginning in 2009, the New York Times ran a series of articles called "Driven To Distraction," focusing on accidents and fatalities involving distracted drivers. (In 2012, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 570,000 accidents, and 3,328 fatalities, the latter marking a 9% increase from the previous year). The series expanded to include "Distracted Doctoring," reporting on the large number of surgeons who are placing personal calls during surgery; on medical technicians who are texting while running cardio-pulmonary bypass machines; and anesthesiologists who are shopping online for airline tickets."

"Distractions created by social media in the work place cost the American economy $650 billion per year, with social media interruptions occurring every ten minutes, and with workers spending 41% of their time on Facebook. In the US alone, over 12 billion collective hours are spent browsing on social networks every day. The average college student spends 3 hours a day checking social sites, but only 2 hours a day studying."

These two paragraphs have been taken from the article "Attentiveness and Digital Culture" by Archimandrite Maximos Constar, printed in the journal DOXA, a publication of the Monastery of the Holy Archangel Michael (Canones, New Mexico). This is a somewhat abbreviated form of the paper that Archimandrite Maximos delivered at the International Conference on Digital Media and Orthodox Pastoral Care, Athens, 7-9 May, 2015. 

Copies of DOXA and Pt. I of this paper were distributed last week following the Liturgy. It is a challenging article for those who are nearing the "addictive state" when it comes to social media and our over-all digitally-driven culture.  

The opening sentence of the paper sounds an alarm with a sober assessment of this new culture:

"Having promised us a technological utopia, our ubiquitous and intrusive cyberculture has instead precipitated a spiritual crisis in which human experience has been systematically fragmented and the coherence of the self isolated and disconnected, preventing us from seeing and experiencing the wholeness of life."

Not exactly a compliment.

For those who may be interested to read further, I have a copy of the entire article - Pts. I & II - which also contains many fascinating footnotes and references.  Please let me know, and I will make you a copy. The positive side of the article is a very fine discussion of "spiritual attentiveness," a key concept in our Orthodox spiritual tradition.  As a Church Father would, Archimandrite Maximos will not only offer a powerful critique of an existing cultural and social norm, but also offer a theologically-based alternative that leads to a greater perception and experience of the "life in Christ." 


About ten days, I sent out some wonderful "Counsels" of the Elder Porphyrios (of Kavsokalivia). I recently discovered that the elder was officially glorified/canonized as a saint on November 13, 2013, by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. His feast day on the calendar is December 2. The Orthodox Church has its "latter day saints!"

Homilies on Two Great Feasts
As we celebrate the great Feasts of the Transfiguration and Dormition at this time of year, you may want to read what the Church Fathers thought and taught concerning these events in the life of Christ and the Theotokos. Here are links to two remarkably full collections of patristic homilies:

Light on the Mountain: Greek Patristic and Byzantine Homilies on the Transfiguration of the Lord

On the Dormition of Mary: Early Patristic Homilies

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