Over the last few years sportswear giant Adidas have been using the slogan, “Go All In”. It’s an attractive prospect. For the love of the game, be committed, throwing in whatever you’ve got. Leave nothing in the changing room and everything on the court.
But actually in life I find it pretty hard going ‘all in’, because I want to be ‘in’ lots of different places.
Zack Eswine, in his brilliant book Sensing Jesus, makes some very perceptive observations about exposing the temptation to want to be everywhere-for-All:
Many who are ambitious [to be influencing others] rarely envision the mundane of the place in which their greatness will land. So when sacrifices requires limits and locality, great mountains somewhere else seem to offer fewer challenges and more glories… We plan in order to meet, and we meet in order to plan. “Somewhere else doing something else” is the unspoken motto of our advancement.
Yet he goes on:
But in whatever direction we place our foot, we necessarily leave every other direction empty for the footsteps of another. To choose, therefore, is to limit. Yet limitation is the only way forward.
In particular, Eswine puts his finger on social media as feeding us a view of life where we feel we can be everywhere, but which is not without its costs:
Twitter, Facebook, etc, allow us the illusion of being somewhere other than where we are. Positively we have a voice in places otherwise absent to us. But we type on our keyboards while sitting in a chair where we are – the local knowledge and the work of the day in our place awaiting our presence. The danger here is that it allows us to give our gifts without giving ourselves.
How awful if our desire to be present online meant that we are irresponsibly absent where we actually are.
I heard of one attempt to make that a reality recently, a family adopting the maxim, “no smartphones at the kitchen table, the sofa or the bed”. Be where you are, rather than wishing you were somewhere else.
Over at Buzzfeed, London photographer Babycakes Romero has documented what they’ve calling ‘the death of conversation’ due to smartphones. As I scrolled through the images, full of people just like me, I couldn’t help feeling there was something surprisingly ugly about them. Human beings living side-to-side, yet failing to interact.
Indeed the photographer made this fascinating observation about his subjects’ motives:
They know that every single thing that arrives on their device is somehow connected to them, whereas in conversation you are not always the focus.
That may well be true. Perhaps our so-called ‘connectedness’ as a generation might be better described as a ‘selfwardness’.
Interestingly Eswine believes part of the the problem lies in us coveting a sort of divine-omnipresence, desiring that we are more than the finite creatures that we are.
On the contrary ‘being where we are’ is born out of being convinced we are created people, finite-bodies-in-real-places-with-other-people. And such “Placeless ambition” and “restless discontent”, as Eswine puts it, can rob us of the happiness that God intends us to find as we are satisfied in our humanness, genuinely relating to others in their humanness.
Perhaps there’s something odd about writing all this on a blog. Isn’t blogging part of the problem? Certainly it could be. Certainly, if this was all about grand ambitions of communicating to masses, flowing from an escapist desire to not really invest in the place I’ve been put, with the people God’s given me responsibilities to and friendships with.
And, of course, no one is immune to that desire. Online seems easier. It probably comes with a lot less sweat, tears and love.
But for those of us who do engage in this ‘online space’ (for I’d want to argue that in some sense online is still a place that exists, and thus a place to be inhabited with grace and truth and the name of Jesus), well we can join together in calling each other to remember our humanness and limitations and placedness.
As we type and tweet, and post and filter, let us first ‘be where we are,’ all in.