Tuesday, November 8, 2011

When you can't be present at your own wedding

In Canon Law class, I learned about marriage by proxy, which was more likely to occur back in the day when politically advantageous marriages were arranged and either the bride or groom was unable to travel the distance to be present at the wedding. In that sense, then, I am familiar with the possibility of someone not being present at his or her own wedding. But this is a whole new idea of not being present:

Goodness! The bride's phone was not off or silent. The bride's phone was with her during the wedding. The bride's phone was picked up during the wedding itself! And there in the midst of the most profound act of her life -- giving herself totally and irrevocably to her husband and to God -- the text just cannot wait.

It's so easy for us to watch this clip and think, "I would NEVER do that!" Yet, how many times do we reach for the phone during dinner with a friend? When do we decide to tweet about whatever experience we are currently engaged in, instead of enjoying the experience itself? How often do we spend time on facebook instead of sitting in silence with another, making eye contact or having a meaningful conversation in person?

In fact, Britain's "The Telegraph" recently reported a study that found that the average adult on a date in the UK spends 48 minutes on a smartphone.
During this time they will send a staggering three emails, 12 texts and two photos, as well as posting three messages and two status updates on websites, such as Twitter and Facebook.
On a date? Really? If dates are traditionally considered the time and place for trying to impress another person, then how often do we pull out our phones with our long time friends, our family, our coworkers? How often have we seen families sharing dinner at a restaurant, each playing games or sending texts on their phones? How do we learn to see the dignity of the human person when we can't disengage from our 160-character interactions mediated by tiny keyboards and glowing screens? How would we treat others differently if we believed that they were really unique, unrepeatable, someone chosen by eternal Love?

How am I present? How can I become more present? If we want to be present at our own wedding, we should start being present at the kitchen table, at the work meeting and at the coffee date with a friend.

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