Always On? Always Connected? Our Ability to Transform Reality and Act for Good Starts with Solitude

Imagination and Deep Thoughts

(This is the full text of the article that ran on Wednesday April 4th, 2012 in The Bluffton Packet)

By Daniel Griswold

A family sits together in a living room in front of a television screen watching American Idol.  Every few minutes, someone hears a beep and a phone screen appears.

Actually several phones appear because everyone is reminded of their phones and tablets.  Dad gets on his Ipad checking stock prices and his daughter uses the moment to do a few rounds on the Kindle Fire playing Angry Birds (she’s accomplished 78 of 99 levels) and switching between that and her Facebook app.

After texting a bit with his bud, the son opens YouTube and watches several funny cat videos.  After the television-show ends, the mother is asked what Randy had said about a contestant and who sung the best.  The television has been merely a backdrop for the connectedness that so many screens provide.  The family sits together, but they were all in different worlds on different screens.

And with all this entertainment, education and content streaming to us constantly, I still see and hear this odd statement, “I am sooooo bored.”  I suppose that there is a point in which we have been saturated with media – and yet we still want more.   Our appetites are so large that when a quiet moment comes, we become scared because we have been passive consumers for so long.

I think that the ability to consume entertainment and educate ourselves at any point we choose has given many a feeling of power and confidence.  When stripped from the sources of connectedness, we feel like we are not accomplishing anything anymore.  This fits the picture of the good American – always on – always productive, even when enjoying a morning cup of coffee.

But this “always on” culture is blocking two huge facets of human growth:

(1) Imagination – Our minds are capable of dreaming big, and making new worlds by envisioning better combinations of what we know.  Disciplined imagination changes the world (“I have a dream”), and gives guidance and hope to the individual.  It comes from within and is inspired by the world of the spirit.  When Christ taught us to pray, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, On Earth as it is in Heaven,” we have a moment to imagine what our world could be like and what it will be like – if we take the time to draw it out in our minds. It is an act of creation that mirrors God’s creation of the universe.  From daydreaming to action, the world is made into a better place.

(2) Deep thinking – After a good cup of coffee or right after waking from sleep or during a walk through the woods, there are moments in life where our logical mind has time to dig deeper into the problems we are trying to fix.  No matter what the commercials say, life will always present intense challenges.  That means that to face them, we need time to process and think through the best course, the best way to act, or the best words for a speech.  Great leaders often need times of sabbatical to read for lengthy periods of time, but not just to gain information, but to make space and time to design the future plans for their projects, whether building teams, skyscrapers, philosophies or contemplating the intricacies of God’s interaction with Creation.  These structures in our mind take time and training to build strong foundations for growth of the individual and the society they plug into.

When Jesus had spent a great deal of time speaking to people and work with the disciples, in Mark chapter 6 there is a picture of Jesus looking for a quiet place.  People were coming and going, so much was going on, so many distractions.  But to grow and assess, Jesus needed moments of peace to process and commune with his Father.  In verse 46, Jesus has to literally climb up a mountainside to find time to pray and refresh his spirit.

We all need quiet times, but many of us are afraid of what might change if we dive deep into our minds and hearts.  There, God waits on us patiently, but we often wait too long, finding new distractions, and our spirit breaks down.  The greatest thoughts, the greatest peace, and the greatest projects are waiting for you there, so step in and see.  You’ll find living water that never runs dry.

Daniel Griswold is the Director of Youth, Saint Andrew By-The-Sea UMC,, twitter name: dannonhill


2 thoughts on “Always On? Always Connected? Our Ability to Transform Reality and Act for Good Starts with Solitude

  1. Yes. Thank you.
    It is very hard to live on only crackers, more crackers, are only more crackers. The question is, are crackers really nourishing?
    We can come away from what is familiar, to what will really nourish us.
    The quest for meaningfulness starts here.


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