Recently I went on a weekend retreat with other men from my parish. It was a very interesting and spiritual experience, and I think the Holy Family monastery in West Hartford should have a new motto: “We feed you to within an inch of your life!”
I only gained five pounds in three days, but that’s because our retreat was during Lent. If we went there during a non-fasting time of year, I would’ve put on at least 10 pounds. Carnival Cruise Line has nothing on those Passionist priests.
Anyway, while on retreat I decided to take a much-needed break from the digital world. No TV, no streaming videos, no emails, and no Internet. I did turn on my smart phone twice each day just to make sure no emergency messages came in from my family, but then quickly turned it back off.
The prayers and meditation and discussion groups were designed to help us learn something important about ourselves. Here is the spiritual lesson I learned about myself: I am totally addicted to my cell phone.
All during the retreat I kept reaching into my pants pocket for my phone, and for that brief moment before I remembered the phone was stored away in my suitcase upstairs, I panicked and muttered, “Where’s my phone? Did I lose my phone?!” My hands quickly slapped at all of my pants and shirt pockets, desperately searching for the phone. I kind of looked like a guy doing the Macarena after 17 double espressos.
Then I remembered, “Oh yeah, no phone this weekend.” I would then sit down with a sad and lost feeling in the depths of my soul, which I’m pretty sure was not the feeling the retreat weekend was intended to produce.
Here is a list of the reasons why I regularly reached into my pocket for my phone:
- Check the weather forecast.
- Check the Red Sox score.
- Check email.
- Check news app for latest headlines.
- Check the Red Sox score (again).
- Check Google Maps to see how far Denver, CO, is from Boulder, CO. (It came up in conversation during lunch and I suddenly just had to know.)
- Check UConn basketball score.
- Do Google search to see if Sean Connery is still alive. (It came up in conversation during dinner and I suddenly just had to know.)
- Check weather radar.
- Check Red Sox score (again).
- Check email (again).
- Do Google search to find out how many metric tons of bananas are eaten in America each year. (It came up in conversation during breakfast and I suddenly just had to know.)
- Check UConn basketball score (again).
- Check Red Sox score (again).
- Play an E-flat on a keyboard phone app. (I was sitting in the chapel before a prayer service, and while looking at the first song we were scheduled to sing, I thought, “Hmm, I know this tune. The first note is an E-flat. Maybe I can hum it if I can hear the first note. But with no phone I couldn’t do it — a major blessing for the guys nearby.)
The retreat occurred in early March. This means the Red Sox games in question were meaningless spring training games. The UConn basketball game in question was a contest between the Lady Huskies and East Carolina, which meant UConn was going to win by at least 30 points even if Geno ordered his team to play in flip-flops. So, there really was no reason for me to reach repeatedly for my phone.
This is the spiritual lesson I learned that weekend: the next time I go on retreat, instead of giving up my phone for the whole weekend, I’ll give up something much easier, like breathing.