Walking into the BEC was a little overwhelming, because there were different stations around the room where students presented and explained their research. The board that caught my attention was done by a fellow Honors student and member of the lambda class, Solomon Spangler. His research project was titled “Cell Phones and Their Attentional Cost” and his thesis was the mere presence of a cell phone is distracting. The results of his study confirm his thesis.
Solomon’s research can be applied to topic of Christian vocation, because a Christian vocation, by my understanding, is any kind of work or action that benefits and/or serves another individual or group. By serving others, one is then giving service to God. Solomon’s research confirmed his thesis that cell phones are a distraction, and, if it is our calling as Christians to serve others, how can we do so if we are distracted by our phones and not paying attention to the world around us? We cannot, is my answer, for we are sinners by nature. However, with the power of the Holy Spirit the temptation of sin can be overcome, allowing us to serve others without getting distracted.
I allow my cell phone to be a distraction when it should not be, especially in church. Church is a time when my full attention is needed in order to fully appreciate and receive the gift of God’s grace. There is always something in the sermon that I need to hear, and if I am distracted by my phone, then I will miss the message. And so many times I have been walking down the street or a hallway while on my phone, completely blocking out the world around me. And because of Solomon’s study, I now wonder, what if I had not been on my phone? Would I have had an interaction when someone that would have given me the opportunity to share the love and grace of God with them? Actions as small as a smile can be an impact larger then we realize, and that is when we are serving others. I make it a habit to turn my phone off during church, so I do not miss the message and because of Solomon’s study, I will be more cautious about when I am on my phone and will make an effort not be on it as I walk down to the street or the hallway, so that my full attention will be on serving others.
Dorothy Sayers lived from 1893 to 1957. She was a one of the first women to graduate from Oxford University; she worked as a journalist. In her writing, Vocation in Work, she explains that one’s work should be meaningful and creative and engaging of the mind. Humans were created in the image of God, and God is a creator. God created humans because he wanted to and for his own pleasure, not because He had to. Thus, humans are creators too, and ideally, work should be creative and for our pleasure, not solely for economical gains. This also applies to how leisure time should be spent; it should not be spent doing unproductive mind numbing actives, but should engage and work the mind and be creative and meaningful.
Dorothy Sayers’ philosophy on vocation and work would be beneficial in today’s society. Because our society is so caught up in making money, we often forget that leisure time can and should be spent doing something that actively engages the mind. Leisure time could be spent volunteering in the community instead of falling asleep in front of the TV. Causing individuals to serve their neighbors, in turn serving God.
I agree with Sayers’ philosophy on how leisure time should be spent. When I spending a whole day watching Netflix and getting nothing accomplished, I do not feel well and I do not like spending my free time that way. I prefer to spend my free time outside being active or playing one of my many instruments. I like to stay active, both physically and mentally, because it helps me perform better at my summer job and keeps me healthy. My summer job is a lifeguard and pool manager at a private pool in Virginia Beach, VA. My job is physically and mentally demanding and requires me to interact with people, all day, every day. The interactions with people give me many opportunities to share the love of God with the patrons. So how I spend my free time affects my vocation, because if I do not take care of myself then I can not do my summer job.
Simone Weil lived from 1909 to 1943 and joined the Resistance during WWII when Germany occupied France. She grew up as a Jew, but mystical experiences brought her close to Catholicism. In her essay, reflections on the right use of school studies with a view to the love of God, for a group of Catholic schoolchildren she explains how “it is the highest part of the attention only which makes contact with God, when prayer is intense and pure enough for such a contact to be established; but the whole attention is turned towards God” (Callings, p. 400). And our calling is for our souls to grow closer towards God. Weil goes on to explain how the attention needed for prayer is beneficial when used on school studies, which in turn benefits attention in prayer.
Weil’s emphasis on attention is a great reminder for Christians today, for in a world full of distraction it is easy for us to get caught up in all the chaos and our prayer life suffers because of it. Weil reminds us that we need to be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10). The attention she speaks of in her essay is an intense and solemn concentration, and in today’s society that is not easy to achieve. With so many distractions in our lives, we often forget to make time for deep prayer, to have a conversation with God in which we are listen for Him. When we still ourselves and listen for God, His will for us is revealed.
In third grade I was diagnosed with ADHD, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, so attention and concentration are not my strongest qualities. So, Weil’s philosophy on applying the same attention to school work as prayer is inapplicable to me. For, with ADHD I cannot sit still in silence for hours working on one problem; if I were do to so I would fail and would not be able to concentrate. Because the way my brain is wired, I always having to be physically doing something or my brain has have something to keep it active, like having more than one think to think about. So that makes prayer challenging for me, especially since I get distracted rather easily. However, Weil’s philosophy can apply to me, for if I practice concentration and attention on my school work then it will make using them for prayer easier. I need my prayer life to improve, because right now it is weak and I feel lost. I pray to God for guidance, but I do not think I am paying God enough attention; to hear His answers. God can overcome anything and everything; He can overcome my ADHD. I just need to give Him my attention so he can do it.