I am on retreat for a few days.
I am working with a spiritual director and doing body work every day. Ha ha, no jokes. I mean healing bodywork with practitioners. Like cranio-sacral therapy. Like reflexology. Releasing the stories that we hold in the body so that they can be honored and let go. Wait, let me use an “I” statement: releasing some of the stories that I am holding in my body, honoring them, and letting them go.
It just occurred to me that this is what I think Jesus did. Wait a minute. Yes, I think that’s exactly what Jesus did. He heard and honored the stories people were holding in their bodies and helped them release them. Maybe this is the essence of healing, yes?
I had a lot of fun talking to my sister on the phone last night. I happen to think that spiritual retreat is something that should give you more time to laugh on the phone with your sister, not to make you feel obligated to not laugh on the phone.
Tweeting, too. I Tweeted a little bit from my beautiful room in this retreat center. Because the State Of the Union Address was happening and there was all this national energy flying around that I wanted to be part of. This is not a retreat from the world (not for me, not this time) but a retreat about letting my soul and body catch up to each other.
And so today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I expect the usual annual hand-wringing about social media fasts. “Should I go off Facebook for Lent?” “I am going off Twitter for Lent, I hope you don’t miss me, I hope I can do this!” Etc. Etc. Etc.
My gosh, I just don’t think anyone cares that much. If you’re going to go on a social media fast for Lent, just do it. Put up a notice on your Facebook page that says, “Gone fishing with God” or something, and let that be the end of it. Stay off Twitter. Is anyone really going to notice anyone else’s absence from Twitter? Unless you’re a national figure, I mean?
Social media is no more or less spiritual than anything else we are and do as individuals or churches. It is a tool for communication. It is a way of gathering in time and space. It is a blessing or a curse depending on how we use it, or are used by it.
For me personally, giving up social media for forty days would be fine, although I would be anxious about people trying to get in touch with me that way and missing any important messages, but it’s not like we wouldn’t recover from that. It would be fine. I would miss the interactions but it wouldn’t be a huge sacrifice. I am a writer at the deepest core of my being and have felt the burning need to write my little letters to the world every day, many times a day, all my life. Social media simply gave me a place to put that correspondence. If I could no longer e-mail, blog or post to Facebook or Twitter I would simply go back to corresponding with my notebook, through letters and in classroom and community the way I have all my life before the Al Gore assembled that length of tubing we know as the interwebs.
What does God put in your heart to say? To do? To be? To seek?
That’s what interests me for myself and for you. Lent is a gift of time for us to embrace, not a punishment for our dirty little souls. God is grand, grand beyond comprehension, and we partake of that grandeur but lose it every day through dysfunction, neurotic suffering and pettiness. I suspect that many people fast from social media for Lent because they correctly intuit that it is a space that can be rife with pettiness and neurosis: a pageant of ego and posturing, and a spectacle of false personae. You betcha. If that is how online community feels to any of us, we had best sign off for a good long while.
However, social media space and community only feels like an ego circus to me when I’m being an ego clown myself and voguing madly behind a mask. When I am not, it does not. What it feels like is a wider congregation of beautiful souls gathered to connect and share life’s many blessings and challenges in a sincere and heartfelt manner. Given that this is how I feel about social media right now, I would not want to leave it for forty days any more than I would want to pack up and leave the Church for forty days.
You have to discern where you are and where God is inviting you to be.
Tonight I will joyfully and gratefully go get ashes smeared on my forehead because I am dust, and to dust I shall return. I appreciate having the reminder physicalized in that ritualistic manner. I love sitting in a church with other dust people — and why is that an insult? Dust is of earth. I am honored to be made of earth — with whom I share this moment in history on this patch of the planet. I look around and say to myself, “This is my generation of humanity.” And I am overcome with fondness and gratitude and a sene of solidarity. It never fails. Those smudges of ash on our foreheads are a great unifier and equalizer. We are all mortal, we are all benighted and probably making our best effort.
Lenten blessings to you, fellow dustlings. May the introspection of this season yield something of God’s grandeur within each of our souls.