Tomorrow President Barack Obama will step down and a new President Trump will take office. This process has been occurring since the birth of this nation. The peaceful transition of power is one thing that makes America so great. Another thing is free speech and the freedom to peacefully assemble. With this highly contentious and close election emotions are raw. One only has to look at the news to see this. Regardless of who you voted for, rather you are happy with the choice of the next President or not you do have the right to voice that opinion. That right extends to everyone and I pray that all recognize and respect this. I also pray that they realize that these rights are for peaceful demonstrations, and this right does not allow anyone to prevent through violence another from partaking in their rights. I pray that no matter what tomorrow or the future brings it is peaceful.
I am not naive however. If my tine in law enforcement showed me anything it was the bad side of society and the human condition. That is where grace, forgiveness, repentance, and peace takes over, show grace, forgiveness, and peace in all things. Admittedly I do not always do these things. I know there will be at sometime, somewhere a non-peaceful interaction. It is inevitable, I only pray that overall things are peaceful.
Tomorrow marks the ending of one era and the beginning of another. Regardless if this new era is prosperous and peaceful, or impoverishes and tumultuous I rest in the knowledge that Christ is on His throne. It is not my place to judge anyone for their views or actions, Lord knows I have enough of my own sins to worry about. Regardless of whatever the future holds practice peace and forgiveness.
So it is finally 2017…2016 was a pretty crappy year here in my house as it was for many I know. In all actuality, even though we all say stuff to the contrary, we know that the new year is really just another day in the long line of days that is our life. Life has its ups and downs and sometimes those days are mostly good and we have a good year and sometimes it is the opposite. Perseverance is the key…perseverance and trusting that whatever comes God is on His throne and all things will work out to His glory.
We went back to the mountains for Christmas this year and while I was there I snapped the picture above one foggy morning. It is what remains of an old train trestle bridge spanning the South Holston River. It has always struck me: these small trees have persevered through severe weather only rooted into the crevasses of the stones. How they came to be planted there is anyone’s guess but they have held on for decades in those rocks.
The interesting thing about trees is that their strength comes from their growth rings; the tighter the rings, the stronger the tree. Rings are only close together in the years the tree has to overcome great stresses and thus grows very little; otherwise the tree can grow easily and the rings will be farther apart. The more stress, the stronger the tree and the more likely it will survive whatever comes its way.
It is easy to get caught us in the woes of this world, be it personal or global. I myself have problems not getting caught up in it myself. It is easy, especially in the bad years like 2016, to become downcast and sit in defeat, despair, and hopelessness. I for one have stayed there for far too long. Becoming this way leaves me catatonic in fear as life swirls around me. Life never stops regardless of our personal circumstances. This leads me to complete exhaustion and a complete lack of planning and prone to make major mistakes, and that perpetuates the cycle and lack to margin.
I have this icon of Saint Thomas that I keep in my wallet. I am unsure exactly of how it came to find its way there but I keep it there as a reminder that doubt and fear are normal but easy. It is easier to believe that nothing is going to change and have an “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality. It is harder to take things on faith. The doubt and fear come from a place of mistrust, or at least, misplaced trust. I fear that XYZ will happen because I am misplacing my trust into myself and others and not placing that trust in the right place-with God.
Regardless if a child has a resurgence of illness or another financial disaster plagues this home, God is on His throne and all will be to His glory. It is laughable that I move my trust from the unfailing God to myself, a sinner and mistake prone human. It is laughable, but oh so easy to do. It is easier to misplace our trust into ourselves and others, that we can see and feel, and not place it where it belongs with God; because that requires that we trust the unknown.
Trials are of two kinds. Either affliction will test our souls as gold is tried in a furnace, and make trial of us through patience, or the very prosperity of our lives will oftentimes, for many, be itself an occasion of trial and temptation. For it is equally difficult to keep the soul upright and undefeated in the midst of afflictions, as to keep oneself from insolence and pride in prosperity.” ~St. Basil the Great
This year I have no resolution…no word of the year. There is no guarantee of tomorrow…or for the next breath, for that matter. Instead of living in fear I choose to trust in God. I choose to work toward my goals every day and no longer look at them as pipe dreams that will happen ‘whenever I get the time and money’ or ‘one day when I retire’. Most of all, I choose life..to live in the world as the creation of God that I am…because to borrow a phrase from the musical Hamilton, “Dying is easy, son. Living is harder”.
It is safe to say that I have been an avid non-reader most my life. According to my mother I loved to read when I was young. That all changed while I was in Elementary, Middle, and High School. I have a feeling it was the forced reading of books that I had no interest in and at a pace that I could not keep up with. The irony is that the more you read the better you get and this absence of reading really hit me hard in that area. This only really became an issue in college, somehow I was able to skirt through high school with cliff notes and class notes.
Things are different now that I am almost 34. Though much busier that I was back then I have begun to read for fun again. Admittedly not much; but as time allows. I really have my Beloved to thank for that. Without her encouragement I would have not even tried. It amazes me how God works things out like that. There are so many things that I would have not experienced without her encouragement. I can easily see how I would be half the person I am today without her in my life.
I’ve read a few books since my reading reboot (Walden by Thoreau, Modern Homesteading by Mr. & Mrs. Wranglerstar, and Coming Home by Hari Kaur Berzins) but I just finished my first novel. I have never been a huge fiction fan but while looking through the Amazon Kindle Prime Lending Library I came across a book by Kirk Ward Robinson called The Appalachian. Its title alone was enough to peak my interest, for obvious reasons, and I figured it’s “free” so if I didn’t like it I was out nothing but time.
I have to say I was surprised with this one for sure. I walked into it having read the synopsis of an old (128 years old to be exact) Tennessean looking back on his past and the ills of society…or at least that is how I understood the synopsis…and found a heart wrenching journey through a man’s life. While completely fiction it is easy imagine it as truth. Kirk Ward Robinson does an amazing job of describing the places and people throughout. It is clear he did his homework on the places and times in the book, most if not all are actual places…many I have seen with my own eyes.
The last of the baby boomers Carlton is the youngest sibling in his family and lives through some of the most tumultuous and exciting times in the history of the United States. His life is filled with great highs and extreme lows and you are transported through that life with him. Well told in great details it is easy to imagine yourself with Carlton as these events unfold. Most of this book is spent looking back through the 1960’s to our present day with only the last few chapters looking into what is to us the future. The futurescape presented is easily believable and just as equally alarming.
I’m not much into spoilers so I won’t say much more about it’s content but I would greatly recommend it. However be prepared to go on a rollercoaster of emotions as you follow along the life’s story of Carlton Jeffries. I would say this is definitely a book for High School and up ages. Many themes discussed are adult in nature but all tasteful and not overpowering to the storyline. At 748 pages it took me 17 ish hours to read this book, but then again I am a slow reader after all, but it is easy to get sucked into. Consider yourself warned 🙂
“Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ ~ Luke 14:28-30
It has been a while since I have written here. Many things have come and gone…good and bad. In the end nothing much has really changed though. I still have my same job (didn’t get the promotion), Elliana and Josiah are still just as sick, and the doctors still have no certain diagnosis for Elliana. Everything else has come and gone…except my shingles those have come and decided to stay a month or two. It is interesting however to note that for one reason or another I have changed greatly. I’m not sure when it happened but I stopped caring so much, or at least not caring enough to act on every issue. Not in a bad way mind you but in a boundary setting way. I’ve learned to let things be where they are and not try and fix everyone’s issue.
At work this has meant letting things go until the person whose job it is to fix it deals with it instead of jumping in and getting it done because I know how. At home it has meant putting aside external factors and being a bit more lax on the chores to do in order to be more present and engaged. In all of this I have begun to care less and less about what people think of me because of it.
Thing is I grew up in a small mountain town where things move slowly and have for centuries. People take the time to slow down and enjoy the day to day and to help one another. This is a major juxtaposition to where I am living now. Here people, for the most part, are in a constant state of hurry and multi-tasking as they do it. I see it every day, people driving fast and erratic while texting or talking to one another while texting someone else. It is enough to drive you crazy but it is also easy to fall into that trap.
I am ashamed to say I fell into it myself. The cultural push to hurry and get as much done as possible and to be constantly connected to work/social media got a hold of me. I felt as if I was required to respond to those work emails on the weekend or answer that Facebook question/comment right away. I felt that pressure and I know that my boss helped encourage that mindset, she has been known to say ‘You are an exempt employee and I can work you however and whenever I want’. This added unnecessary stress to our already stressful lives.
For some reason I’ve snapped out of it, can’t point to any one thing that made me change my mindset but I have. Truth of the matter is no one will die or even be injured if some computer at the my work isn’t working. There is so many stressors in our life right now that we can’t control (ie.medical and financial) but I don’t need to add anymore stress to the mix. Most likely this added stress was the cause, or at least a contributing factor, in my shingles. Maybe so maybe not but I do know the more stressed I get the more it hurts and the least it has hurt me was when I was on vacation hiking in the mountains with my family.
This is of course the curse of technology. The internet, computers, and smart phones have given us great opportunities and advancements but they come at a cost…as do all things. We as humans, and I am a huge offender, have an issue with counting the cost of or actions before acting. I think this is a human trait and we have done it since creation (hello Adam and Eve) but I do wonder if it is more of an issue in this modern era. It seems that all our modern “conveniences” have given us an avenue to distraction and force us to make rushed and rash decisions.
Luke 4:28-30 sticks out in my mind when I think of this. There Jesus is speaking of the cost of discipleship but he gives the example of a man wishing to build a tower. He say who would not first count the cost and make sure you could finish it so you would not be ridiculed. This is also the verse that I point out when a new building project at a church begins. Sadly all too many times those churches have not made sure and come up short or had to borrow so much it put them in a financial hardships.
I am trying to change that in me at least. To do that however I must slow down and think things through. It is hard to examine a situation thoroughly if you are moving at 100MPH. The world will not end if I take the couple minutes to think. Of course also pivotal to this is to be rested. Making decisions while exhausted has never worked out for me and I dare say most people are the same. Of course this might explain some of my bad decisions. It is also important to note that it is vital that you accept and own your mistakes and work to learn from them. Look for the cause of the mistake not for an excuse for it…often times they are polar opposites of one another. One helps you to accept and heal the other breeds contempt and anger.
The fact of the matter is life is fragile and precious. Treat it with care and enjoy in all it has to offer…good and bad. My grandfather used to say ‘everything (happens) for a reason’ and that is true…even if we don’t know or understand that reason at the time. It is in that process of change from bad to good that I see God in the day to day. He does turn all things to good…we just have to pay attention. To pay attention you must slow down.
I will start this post off by warning that this post will be in no way politically correct. I don’t think I could make this politically correct if I tried. So consider yourself forewarned.
I have been away from my home land for 3 years now. In those 3 years I have gone back for a visit 4 times, usually for less than a week at a time. I left my home town in the Tennessee Mountains with a population of just over 26,000 to a coastal city with a population of just over 300,000. The move was not a huge culture shock for me as I have traveled extensively all over the world and had spent a large part of my college summers in this area. It was not till I moved out of Appalachia that I began to realize the extent of prejudice against people like me. This was the biggest culture shock to me.
I first came up against this stereotyping at my job. The sheer amount of off color jokes and comments about my home was disturbing. I will pause here and say that this is racist behavior, the dictionary definition of race is “a class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics” and racism is defined as “racial prejudice or discrimination”, just because it happens to be socially acceptable does not change this fact. As time as gone on I still come up against these issues and I am convinced that had my boss not graduated from the University of Tennessee I would have not gotten an offer.
Remarks like you have “you have all your teeth” and “you are wearing shoes” were common when people found out where I was from. I have had my knowledge and education (Bachelors degree with 12 years experience) of my field (IT) questioned and belittled. Even with all of this I refuse to hide where I am from or hide my accent. I do peacefully correct the person when this happens and have mentioned my frustration to my superiors. When I did I was told to deal with it and it was not against any rule for me to be treated as such, however I know had the tables been turned and I had insulted them in the same manner, I would be fired on the spot.
Yea I got angry, pissed off honestly, and I “dealt with it”. I distanced myself from those persons and built up some internal walls. I also began to ask myself why this was the way it is. I have always tried to be forgiving and see things from others perspective as well as educate…it is the way I was raised…ironic isn’t it. The more I thought about it the more I began to realize the horrific stereotypes that have come to define what Appalachia means to those from the outside. We are seen as dumb, backwards, fearful of outsiders, lacking in hygiene, lazy, and many more. This is NOT Appalachia and I am really tired of seeing the region and its people marginalized and exploited. Appalachia is full of people who have had to work hard just to scrape by a living and have been exploited along the way.
Many have come into Appalachia and stripped it of its resources and taken all the profit with them as they left. First the timber companies came and stripped away the old growth forests and left poverty and poor soil in their wake. The land was left barren and the floods came and with them more destruction and death.
When the coal mines came in they brought jobs but they also imported exploitation and corruption. They forced the miners to not take a paycheck and instead get a “script” that was only good at the mine company store. A store where the miners routinely had to go into debt just to live, due to the inflated prices. When the miners began to attempt to unionize the coal companies then hired groups of armed men to kill union sympathizers and instill fear in miners. Even though eventually the unions prevailed the coal companies still exploit Appalachia through unsustainable mountain top removal mining that poison the water and the land and completely remove a mountain from the landscape for the sake of profit. Let me make it clear I am not against mining or even coal but it must be mined in a sustainable and ecologically responsible way, and be used efficiently and without great waste.
Many make jokes about how dumb people are in Appalachia. While it is true that there is a need for better education in the region, people there are far from dumb. As a group of people who have had to make do with what they have many intelligent inventions have come from the region. It was in Tennessee that one of the major sites of the Manhattan Project (where the atomic bomb was developed). Many major manufacturing and chemical companies still call Appalachia home. As the technological revolution has developed major tech companies like Google have moved into Appalachia and have created data centers and server farms.
As far as the stereotype that Appalachians are fearful of outsiders- I have not personally seen this. I have seen people treat outsiders with skepticism and not trust them… but not be fearful of them, and all the while treating them kindly. I’ve never seen the out and out violence that is stereotypical. However, with the history of exploitation coupled with the stereotypes who can blame someone for being skeptical.
I’ve always known the stereotypes and have struggled in times past to educate as to their fallacy… especially while over seas… but after moving away full time the issue became more apparent. I began to wonder what was fueling this train of thought. It was then that I noticed the proliferation in mass entertainment that props up the stereotypes. Now I know that may sound odd in a way but in my defense we had purposely chosen not to have cable television, and instead watch Netflix and Amazon Prime, for years and during that time avoided the commercials and network TV. As I began looking into this I was surprised to find that the exploitation on the “hillbilly” stereotype in TV was nothing new.
I found movies and TV shows all the way back into the 40’s that exploited the stereotype for some laughs. During this time it was not uncommon to see racial stereotyping used for comedy. As time went on the old films with black faced actors fell into history never to be released again (as they should have been) but remastered versions of Ma and Pa Kettle, and others, are still being produced today because it is still socially acceptable to make fun of Appalachians.
Fast forward to today and you have shows like Outsider on WGN. When I first saw that trailer I was speechless as to how insanely racist it was. It seems like the writers and producers pulled out a checklist of stereotypes and began checking off a list one by one. Lawless…check…Dirty…check…outsider-phobia…check…small family tree…check…language…check…and the list goes on. As a side note I might add that the accents are horrific, it is easy to tell that none of the main actors are from Appalachia (in fact at least 3 aren’t even born in the USA). Just a visit to the website of this show with its “Speak our language” quiz and “Knives N’ Shine” knife throwing/moonshine drinking game is enough to be revolting. I ask you in all honesty if there was a website for a major TV network that had a “Spanglish” or “Ebonics” quiz would they be boycotted and vilified? I won’t even get started on Deliverance.
So what is Appalachia really then? It is more than it’s beautiful vistas and windy roads. It is a place with people…kind, hardworking, and honest people who help each other out. A place where people still stop on the side of the road to let a funeral pass. A place where doors are still held open for others. A place where if you are stranded on the road somewhere someone will stop and help.If being a kind, hardworking, honest, and God fearing Appalachian makes me backwards in the eyes of mass society then so be it. I am proud to call myself an Appalachian and would not have it any other way.
Look up nature in the dictionary and there are several definitions but this one is the most raw…the most natural definition as it were. Mankind likes to take control and control our world. As a race we strive to control our lives and create our own world. We use terms like “man made park” and “man made lake” to label what we call our creations. However, these aren’t creations at all, not in the truest sense. We manipulate the created to make into something we desire and call it our creation, but we have not created anything we have merely manipulated the created world and rearranged it to better serve us. We build dams to have lakes that allow us to power society and manipulate the irrigation of our land. We beat back the weeds and cut down the trees to make our cities with all their conveniences. We do these things in the name of progress trying to control the world around us and in turn our lives.
The irony in all of this is we haven’t truly created anything and unless we continually fight nature what we have built will be destroyed. If we do not continually cut back the woods they will take over. If we do not continually monitor our dams and relieve the water pressure regularly the dam will burst. Over the centuries we have slowly tricked ourselves into this belief that we are creators of our own world. So much so that with the modern advances in science we are trying to clone and genetically modify plants and animals. Slowly we have told ourselves we are a pseudo-god that can do as we wish. Sadly may have used the Bible itself to say this is good quoting Genesis 1:26 as their reference for their right to dominion.
Many have used the term dominion to mean we can do whatever we want with the world around us. In truth we can’t. To have dominion means we are called to be a good steward of the land, to watch over it and nurture it. For centuries mankind did this in relative consistency, there were those that exploited the land but as a general rule the land was taken care of and nurtured. Somewhere this all changed, in my mind this begun in earnest at the industrial revolution, and we began to treasure money, power, and things more than we valued the world around us. We became obsessed with inventing to make our lives easier and have more and to have it quicker.This has morphed into the instant gratification device crazed society that we have become.
Over time we have not only lost the respect for the land but also for one another. We have begun to stop respecting life. As a society we don’t respect the natural world and feel free to take from or simply destroy if it suits our current desires. We see evidence of this with mountain top removal and deforestation. Nature is destroyed in the most harmful way to make our lives easier or make more money, and in the process poisoning the people and nature in the area. It is easy to point the finger at the coal company who blows off the top of mountains or the real estate industry that is stripping the land to make way for a shopping mall, but we are to blame as well for it is us, as consumers, that drive the profits of these industries.
God is everywhere but mankind has invented distractions so that we may not hear or see Him. It is only in nature, surrounded by His creation, that we remove these distractions and can truly hear and see. I find that it is in nature that I am able be come closer to God. Yes, in church while worshiping God I can feel His presence but even during liturgy there are our man made distractions that dull the experience. In nature, if we leave the cell phone and other tech off, we are not only able to worship God ourselves but also are able to join with creation in worship.
He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” ~ Luke 19:40
So many times my time in nature has balanced me back to center. When I am feeling discouraged and worried nature drives home Matthew 6:26 , especially during winter. When I am feeling angry my time in nature God revels to me how my anger is pride based and humbles me. In nature there is a type of freedom that one can only get while surrounded by God’s creation. Turn off the cell phone, leave the tablet and internet at home and walk into nature and simply sit and listen to creation it will change your perspective. When it is time to come back into your regular every day life try to hold on to the knowledge gained and return often.
When you watch the old war movies every time someone is shot or is otherwise injured, someone near them yells MEDIC. We joke around our house when someone falls or gets a scrape to yell ‘medic!’ for a kiss of the boo boo. As much as this is a running joke in our family-recently there has been a more real and serious side in our house.
Our house is sick. I don’t mean the hundred year old house itself but those inside its solid walls. Last year it was the Elliana scare that finally came to an end with a Celiac diagnosis and after numerous rounds of iron infusions, an iron count worthy of a princess. Praise God for that news. The hematology discharge news cane while my son Josiah, who has dealt with bowel issues since his birth, was in the hospital for the third time. Since then he has been in the hospital for a fourth time and we have finally after years of testing got somewhat of a diagnosis. His colon functionality is non-existent naturally and with medication it is reduced from where it should be.
So what exactly does that mean exactly??? Surgery to place a cecostomy tube. The tube will allow medications to be delivered directly to the colon. IF his function comes back over time it can be removed but that remains to be seen.
While this last hospitalization for Josiah was going on I am having to work, because all of my vacation and medical time off has already been spent up with previous hospitalizations for both Ellianna and Josiah. While wrapping up the day my foot gets caught and I twist my knee. I am injured and have to go see my company’s Workers Compensation doctor who promptly puts me on a immobilizing brace and crutches. I go back today, after being on the isolation brace/crutches for two weeks, to see if a MRI is necessary to see if I tore anything.
Just when you think things can’t get any crazier my Beloved goes to the doctor last week about an issue with her nose and the doctors find 3 masses in her sinus cavity. Today she has a CT scan to see the extent of these masses and surgery to remove them is imminent. They, of course, are concerned that they possibly could be cancerous considering the history of melanoma in her family. So 2 surgeries for definite and 1 maybe (my knee) are in our future.
Sooooo…yeaaaaa…MEDIC…UNCLE….TRUCE…. Can someone stop the bus we want to get off. This makes the 4th time we’ve stared cancer in the face in our lives since 2006. (Me in 2006, Ellianna in 2014, Josiah in 2014/15, and now my wife.) The waiting for those results is excruciating and terrifying. I sat down the other day to map out the medical history alone and figured out we have been in medical crisis constantly since 2008…and that doesn’t take into account anything else during that time.
I know we will get through this. I know somehow we will see the other side but right now the tunnel is really dark for us both, and honestly I am squeamish about the light that everyone talks about ’cause so far all the lights have turned out to be another train. These years of roller-coaster and constant crisis have taken their toll on our health (ironically), financially, and honestly spiritually. I know this is not the plan that God has and He is the Great Physician. This will eventually stop…the question is when and what will the toll be to our family, our relationships, and our finances. Your prayers would be appreciated. (A dear friend has helped set up a Go Fund Me page if you feel so led.)
The Ukrainian crisis, ISIS, Israel / Palestine conflict, race relations, sexual orientation relations, etc. is all you hear about in the news. I listen to NPR or the BBC, or watch the PBS News Hour, and the news is filled with violence and hatred and all around bad and evil things of this world. We, as humans, are drawn to the bad news and gossip of this world. I am not sure exactly why but I am not immune; let me make that point perfectly clear.
With this being the Lenten season I have been reflecting on anger, specifically my own, and the causes and ways to reduce anger but today as I was driving I heard a piece on the BBC radio about social memory and it really sparked my interest. During a discussion of Kazuo Ishiguro’s newest book the interesting fact of social memory came up and when it is best to remember or best to forget.** During this discussion Kazuo Ishiguro talks about his book and how the main characters are elderly and trying to remember events in the past but are worried what it will do if they did remember. He mentions how at times social memory is invoked and used as a weapon for political purposes. He mentions examples where in places like Yugoslavia and Rwanda where relative peace had been observed then sudden violence broke out. He pointed out that weaponized social memory was a major cause of this new violence.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often. All too often past offenses by groups are intentionally remembered to rouse up and stir hate and discontent. The fact is that every nation and social group has its dark moments. Americans have slavery and the atomic bomb, Germans have the holocaust and WWII, and the British have the wars and land conquests of Scotland and Ireland, and the list goes on ad nauseum.
Kazuo Ishiguro mentions the question of when is it best to remember and when is it best to forget; I think the question is more complex however. It isn’t the act of remembering, or by extension forgetting, that is the issue it is the anger that is felt and what we as people choose to do with it. It is not wrong to remember, I would argue that it is good to remember and honor those victims and events to prevent them from occurring again, however if you allow anger to well up inside it is dangerous. It is good to remember the holocaust, 9/11, etc. and honor those that died but to have hatred and anger toward the Germans or Muslims because of this is perpetuating violence and hatred and continuing the cycle. Not every German is a Nazi and not every Muslim is a terrorist; in fact most aren’t.
It is sad that all too often the actions of a few are generalized on the populous. It is up to us as individuals to keep our own anger in check and to reject any propaganda. How do we do this? That is the real question. I feel that the answer is different for every person. For me quiet time, prayer, and putting myself in another’s shoes helps but I am by no means mastered anything. I’m just thankful for the forgiveness and mercy shown to us by God and pray I am going the right direction.
We all lead stressful lives in one form or another. There is no escaping stress…it is one of the few equalizing aspects of everyone’s life. I have heard in conversations with those many years my senior that people today are more stressed than they were when they were my age (some 30-40 earlier). Several studies have been done that have shown this.* Studies are also looking at the links between technology use and stress.
A recent Huffington Post article looked at how social networking is affecting us.** Looking at research by the Pew Research Foundation they found that those who actively use Social Media are 14% more likely to say their lives are “Somewhat Stressful”. The article gives a few reasons for this including the pressure to keep up with others and the drive to put our best self forward. How many of us are truly honest about who we are online?
Admittedly, I have found myself being affected by Social Media Stress. For myself it hasn’t been the desire to keep up with the Jones’s or to show my best face but instead had manifested in self degradation. I have found myself beating me up for being a bad husband/father because I’m not doing all these things my “friends” are doing with their spouses or kids. This of course in not healthy and when I recognize it I log off of Social Media for a while. ***
While I have mainly focused on the physical health aspects in this short series there is also a much bigger and more insidious side…the emotional and relational. In this connected society it has amazed he as to how less connected we have become. When I go out in town I see it all the time…the vast majority on a phone, tablet, or other technology and not actively engaging with the world around them. I have to admit I too have been guilty of this. It seems to be happening more and more but what could possibly be the issue with this use?
It isn’t hard to imagine the possible physical issues that could arise from a distracted person. One could walk into a wall, a hole, or even traffic. In fact these technology distracted injuries are becoming more and more problematic.**** This distraction can cause us to be disconnected from those around us too. Who know what we have missed while looking at our tech…we may have walked past an old friend we hadn’t seen in years.
This distraction can be especially harmful if those being distracted are parents. Besides the obvious lack of supervision that could lead to injury or worse. But what about the emotional aspects? A recent Boston Medical study observed 55 groups of children at fast-food restaurants. They observed that 40 of the 55 caregivers “primary engagement was with the device, rather than the child.”***** I have to admit I have been guilty of this at times and I admit it wasn’t even important use of tech.
Much of my reading and pondering has been admittedly uncomfortable. I have become convicted and ashamed of my actions. I have taken steps to remedy my stumbles but I am a long way from where I want and should to be. It is a long road and a difficult one. I have found for myself the lure of technology can be an all too tempting one. Lord willing I will reach that point. I hope this short series might help someone.
I am going to start a small series on technology and health. It is something that has peaked my interest for several months now and I am going to share my thoughts and research here. I started thinking about this when my eyes began to burn and throb and I lost feeling in 3 of my fingers on my left hand. I went to the optometrist who said my glasses were good but that my eyes were really strained and coupled with my allergies was causing the discomfort in my eyes. As far as my hand goes I’ve not been to the doctor yet but I suspect it is carpel tunnel or something similar.
As an IT professional technology is a major part of my life and I can see the many good things it has brought us but I can also see the bad things as well. In this series I am going to show what I have learned and give some advice on how to counteract those negative effects. Admittedly these posts will focus more on the negative side of technology, mainly because the positive is obvious to us all. Please don’t take these posts as a negative rant or manifesto against technology only as an awareness of the dangers and ways to mitigate those dangers while improving our lives for the better. I am definitely no anti-technology luddite…without computers I wouldn’t have a job.
No one, especially parents of young children, can deny that sleep is vital to a healthy life and most of those I know say they don’t get enough of it (including myself). We all know that consuming caffeine or sugary food and drink late at night can cause us to not sleep well. More and more research is showing that our use of technology is affecting our sleep as well.
When the sun goes down and it gets time for our bodies to sleep the brain releases a chemical called melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that decreases our alertness and signals us that bedtime is near. The pineal gland releases this hormone a few hours before bedtime and begins the process of our body preparing for regenerative sleep. This hormone helps regulate our circadian rhythm that dominates our sleep/awake pattern.
This rhythm is vital to us getting the correct amount of sleep and our bodies be regenerated and us be alert during the day. With the proliferation of the use of modern technology this cycle has become compromised. According to one study the average U.S. adult spends an average of 11 hours a day with digital media*. All of these devices (TV’s, computers, tablets, smartphones, e-readers, etc.) emit light…more specifically blue light. This blue light is tricking our bodies into thinking it is daytime.
Many studies have been done that show that blue light is inhibiting out brains from releasing the melatonin that we need to begin the sleep process. This leaves us to stay awake later and sleep less. This has helped attribute to the statistic that 30% if employed US adults reporting that they get less than 6 hours of sleep a night**. This coupled with our fast paced modern society of early work times and long days has caused sever detriments to our health.
This blue light affects adults negatively but the affect is multiplied exponentially with children and teenagers. It is during these years that we establish our circadian rhythm and during these years we are more sensitive to blue light interruption. In one study I read the melatonin levels were measured in adults and teenagers during the use of blue light emitting electronics. The study found that even when teens were exposed to a level of blue light 1/10th less than the adults in the study they actually suppressed more melatonin than the adults in the study***.
Sleep deprivation affects us negatively in more ways than just being tired during the day. The decreased alertness causes us be less productive and increases our chances of mistakes and injury. I know personally when I am tired I make poorer food choices and eat out more because I am too tired to cook. This negatively affects my health and my finances. It is during sleep that our bodies regenerate and heal. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer****.
The blue light also affects our eyes. This may seem like a duh statement but the effects are serious on our eyes, especially for kids and teens. Cases of digital eyes strain, or Computer Vision Syndrome as it is professionally referred to, is on the rise. Symptoms include the short term effects of burning eyes and headaches but there are long lasting affects as well. Blue light is a high frequency light and it can cause cells in the eyes to die off at a faster rate causing macular degeneration*****. These affects are worst for kids and teens because the pigment that the eye uses to filter the blue light doesn’t develop in the human eye until about age 25*****.
So now the real question is what can we do to help combat these negative effects. Technology is all around us and it is very useful to our lives. Technology and blue light is inescapable nor do I believe we should escape totally but everything in moderation. The ideal would to begin by discontinuing use of TV’s, computers, smartphones, etc. as soon as possible to the setting of the sun. That would be the ideal but of course there are those of us who can’t. I would personally be one of those people and what I do may help you.
First thing I do is to stop using technology as soon as possible in the evenings. Some nights that is 6 o’clock some nights it is 11 o’clock depending on the circumstances. Ideally it would be at least 3-4 hours before my bedtime to allow my brain to send those melatonin inspired commands to prepare for sleep. When I can’t do that I try to stick to using my smartphone where I have a blue light filter program that filters out a great deal of the blue spectrum light. I also use a filter on my work computer to help alleviate the eye strain called f.lux.
This program coupled with the change in habits has helped me. My headaches are fewer and my eyes burn less plus I do sleep better. The change was anything but instant or overnight. It takes weeks to reset that circadian rhythm clock. A bonus has been that I have been able to wind down in the evenings and have a calmer end to the day with less stress. I was personally surprised at the stress looking at the news, Facebook, etc caused. I encourage you to read for yourself and discover yourself what researchers are discovering.