Friday, September 11, 2009

Before and After

When I think of "before and after" I think of radical transformation; like a person who lost a ton of weight or a hair and make-up or clothing make over. Maybe even something new out of something old, like the show "Extreme Home Makeover". Regardless, I generally tend to view the "after" picture better than the "before" photo. We always want something better; something newer and improved.

I also find it interesting that when one sees the advertisements for weight loss supplements or to sell exercise equipment, the "before" photo is always an unedited "snapshot" in which the person is wearing no make up, hair messy or at least not styled. The lighting of the photo is dim and off, with shadows and just a harsh look to it. Usually the person is wearing unflattering clothes.... but in the "after" shot, hair and make up are professionally done, the person is now wearing stylish clothing, smiling, better posture, better lighting, and of course, they are transformed to the image is being sold. David, my husband, constantly laughs at infomercials where the really fit guy or gal with lots of muscles says that "just 20 minutes of day" will produce this body. Ummmm..... no. They may have used that equipment for 20 minutes a day but they surely also ran many miles, modified their diet and did a bunch of other exercise to achieve the look they are purporting to have achieved by that diet or that exercise regime or machine alone.... and at 20 minutes a day too!

Now here you may wonder if I'm going to use an analogy of this to our spiritual life of expecting us to know and love God while only doing five minutes of prayer or scripture reading a day. Nope. I'm going in a different direction.


Three years ago I did not own my Macintosh laptop. Nope; we just had a very old PC that's hard drive had given up twice, loosing all my not backed up data. (the 2nd time we did retrieve most of it) I spent a few hours at most on the computer mostly just organizing, downloading and editing photos. Email was designed to inform me of things, not to carry on a conversation. We owned one desktop and it was shared by all. I checked my email maybe twice a day and rarely if ever bought things online.


Today as I was driving to a park to run with my friend Kris. (for me "run" is a code word for "walk") I realized I had not brought my iphone. Not a big deal, right? But I missed it. As I drove to the park I kept noticing this urge, more like a slow twitch to keep glancing at my hand, where my iPhone usually is. As I drove I realized I could not check my email. I could not look up blog posts, I just really missed it. Not even a year ago I had an old phone, with a black and white screen that cold only do phone calls and texting (but I never texted) and displayed the time. Now my options are nearly endless.
This is my after: even on my phone I can order a book online through Amazon with just a click of the touch screen. I can read a whole book that I downloaded for free. It organizes and schedules my life, reminds me of things, tells me the weather, I can look up any bible verse in any language and any translation! Check my facebook, blogs, get directions, listen to music, twitter, GPS,... I can do so much with this phone; an extension of my computer at home. I once spent maybe 2 hours online or on my computer "before" and now I have access to it at stoplights, the grocery store, the park. Anywhere. Instant communication; instant knowledge. I love it.

Now, perhaps this is not a better "after" image. Perhaps I had more free time before I was enslaved and had so many options available to me, but would I have filled my life with such stuff anyways?

When I was younger I hated being bored. I'd carry around a backpack that was my life. It did not matter how much it weighed; the though of being without it and the potential of boredom was not something I wanted to face. I had to have a notebook and a pencil or pen. Had to carry at least one book with me. I enjoyed markers and crayons. I'd bring maybe a dozen CD's with me and my portable CD player with me everywhere. In many regards, this is what I carry with me now, only in a much more compact and better format.

I can blame this all on technology, and there's great things as well as bad things to technology. I hear often that people are finding it "good" and therapeutic to unplug now and then and set aside dedicated time to NOT engage in things online. I am trying to understand that, but in the end I am responsible for my choices. Even if I "unplug" what am I plugging in to? If I choose to not read a book or a blog online, am I reading a paper book instead? If I'm not shopping online, am I at the mall? If I'm not instant chatting with a friend, am I on the phone instead? Is one method inferior to the other or just easier to be distracted in front of a computer screen?

I do love my life "after" with my wonderful computer and iPhone. But is it better because I have dressed it up to look better? Is it more alike than I'd care to admit? Do I waste more time or save more time by this wonderful technology addiction? Has it facilitated relationships in a better way than my "before" life and methods of interaction? Is email the same as regular mail?

Is that old quote the more things remain the same the more they change or the more things change to more they remain the same? Plus c'est la meme chose, plus ca change? What do you think?

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