Via our machines— be it phone, television, or computer— we receive an enormous amount of information every day. But we don’t have the time, the energy, and the emotional resilience to deal with all of this information. We do triage as best we can, but we still are flooded with more stimulation than we can process and integrate.
Still, many people are hooked. Scientists have discovered that every time we hear the blip or ding of an e-mail or text message a small amount of dopamine is released into our brains. We humans are programmed to be curious and it is natural to want to know more, more, and more. Therapists have coined a phrase for a new addiction: FOMO, or “fear of missing out.
The first time I really tried this (remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy) was the Sunday after my last Sunday as a parish minister. After more than twenty years of being in church most Sunday mornings, I found myself suddenly faced with a whole day at home alone. I could not go to the church I had just resigned from. I did not want to go to church anywhere else. I thought about going to the grocery store, but I live in a small town where someone was bound to report that I had been seen buying cold cuts on my first Sunday morning away from church.
So I stayed home instead, where I confronted grave questions about my professional identity, my human worth, and my status before God. But that only lasted about an hour. After that, I went out on the front porch and said morning prayer with the birds. Then I read until lunchtime. Then I made an egg sandwich. Then I took a nap. By the time the sun went down, I realized that I had just observed my first true Sabbath in more than twenty years. In the years since then, I have made a practice of saying no for one whole day a week: to work, to commerce, to the Internet, to the car, to the voice in my head that is forever whispering, “More.”