I try to be very careful in my use of the internet, but one frivolous thing I allow myself is the online edition of The Onion, a satirical publication I have been reading since it was just a newspaper out of Madison, Wisconsin.
One recent article pokes fun at our increasing dependence on input from electronic media: "Report: 90% of Waking Hours Spent Staring at Glowing Rectangles." The humorous diagnosis is uncomfortably true. From the computer screen to the television to the PDA, phone and iPod, a lot of contemporary life revolves around interactions with "glowing rectangles."
To me it's one of our most serious obstacles to taking the Lord's advice on prayer, which we hear in the gospel for today: "But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (Matthew 6:6) The spiritual tradition consistently interprets the door and the inner room in a kind of mental way; we are to pray by going inside ourselves to the place that is higher (for ancients) or deeper (for moderns) than the din of distraction from within and without. Our lives are so full of sensory and intelligible input, both good and bad, that it can be hard to "close the door." I have heard of people practicing "news fasts" in order to get some control in this area, and there is also my proposal of the spiritual practice I call "the dark night of the web."
The other humorous article titled, "60-Year-Old Hippie Pitied By 40-Year-Old Punk" also caught my attention recently. That says more than I can comfortably admit about my own investment in the much examined generational conflicts in contemporary North American religious life.