Ever since Aristotle, philosophers have talked about the importance of habits. As Jamie Smith has said in his book Desiring the Kingdom, we are not merely thinking beings we are loving beings and so what we love and spend our time doing is perhaps even more important than what we think– because it has an effect on what we think, and it shows our true allegiances.
Smith talks about secular liturgies, or rituals, that we practice, which include the places, the practices, and the habits developed through those rites. Daily starbucks could be one. But for that, we must go to a starbucks. An easier one which is much more habit forming, or possibly addictive even, is the cellphone.
Cellphones provide an object of desire and affection which can be with us always. Like an amulet, we touch it and watch it longingly as we hope for its call or texts throughout the day. It provides a welcome distraction, and a means of escaping the here and now situation. In this sense it provides a transcendental to our day to day lives.
But it is not very meaningful. I love my cellphone because it is handy. But it is a tool, and we should not let our tools direct us. We are to direct our tools to help us, not to take us over.
In the contemporary situation, cellphones are one of those habits which have the most loyal adherents of almost any rituals or practices. Jamie Smith said (at a conference I attended last weekend) that he has recently stopped doing twitter, because he could see that it was affecting how he was being in the world– even towards his kids.
We need to be cautious about how much we let our cellphone habits intrude in our relationships and our daily practices. Habits are powerful, and can overcome the best of intentions.
May God have Mercy on us All.