I attended a day long seminar on death and grieving, which for a pastor should not seem like an odd way to spend a day. Others included staff from hospice, a number of therapists and social workers, a few hospital staff, and too few clergy. The presenter, Dr. Pam Cress of Walla Walla University, was outstanding. She knows the subject and presents it well. If you think it’s something your community could use, talk to Pam. But that’s not the point of this brief flusterbluster.
Like most continuing education seminars, this one ended with an evaluation form to be handed in before leaving. That makes me uncomfortable, especially the old hat question: What did you learn today? Maybe that’s easy for others, but I need time to reflect. It may be days, even weeks, before I am able to say what I learned. It isn’t as if the subject was new to me. For most of us continuing education is in the familiar realm of the work for which we have been educated and trained. It certainly reinforced some things I knew; reminded me of some things long forgotten; corrected some mistaken ideas; and made new connections with other disciplines. But let me think about it for awhile.
“Thank you for coming. We hope you enjoyed the day. It’s late. You are all tired and want to go home, but please take five minutes to tell us what how we did over the last six hours of presentation.” No! I can’t do it. It’s the same thing at clergy conferences and our annual diocesan convention. To be fair, the diocesan convention gives you as much as ten minutes to fill out the blasted form after three days of meetings. Big of them.
Maybe that’s the way it’s always been done, but what seems different about today is the environment in which we live. Reflecting on that brings me to a whole new level of rant. It’s an environment of instant everything. Events are instantaneously shared as news with no time given to verify, value, or thoughtfully examine consequences. Mobile phones chirp instant messages that demand instant answers no matter what else is going on. Social media invites instantaneous sharing of the minutiae of daily life, and instantaneous acknowledgment that we know you shared it. A few weeks ago a respected journalist “tweeted” his unreflective thoughts about a candidates’ debate as it went along. I wonder if he was eating fast food as he tweeted while watching his split screen TV with the debate on one channel and several other programs of interest on others? I don’t care what his hastily drafted 140 character notes had to say. I do care what he thought after digesting it, giving time to write an intelligent article.
The more we are inundated with information, the more we need time to reflect. We need time to do our own fact checking. We need time to consider impacts and consequences. We need time to understand connections and meanings. We need time to reflect, perhaps prayerfully, on moral implications. We need time, in the words of a favorite collect, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.
So no! I will not give you five minutes to tell you how you did. I’m going home. Ask me in a couple of days.