A friend asked me the other day: Do you ever find everything is too much? Like one more advertisement or headline will be a few words too much?
I know the feeling well — and since we live in the same culture, I suspect you might, too. It’s one of the many reasons that I was quite taken with a new book by Art and Laraine Bennett called “Tuned In: The Power of Pressing Pause and Listening” (Our Sunday Visitor, $14.95).
It takes the authors exactly one sentence into the book to write about Pope Francis. “We are grateful to Pope Francis,” the husband and wife with years of service to mental health and the Church — what the Holy Father might call “the peripheries” — write, “who challenges us to bring the good news of God’s mercy beyond our comfort zone, especially to the margins, and to view our Church as a ‘field hospital.’ His emphasis on encounter, listening and accompaniment inspires us continually.”
The Bennetts quote a description of social media as a “mugger; it demands your attention and holds you hostage until you respond. But these responses are not always thoughtful, nor do they require true listening. Rather than fostering communication, they sometimes inhibit it and promote angry stalemates, lines drawn in the sand.” The same could be said for so much of media and even binge-watching Netflix and other streaming services, all activities that draw us into a retreat from the world that inundates us all the more rather than refreshes us.
And so, the Bennetts ask, as if to prompt an examination of conscience: “Are we drowning in communication? Is the constant bombardment made possible by our ubiquitous technology, a surround sound of information, isolating and dividing us?”
They cite Benedict XVI, who wrote, “To listen means to know and to acknowledge another and to allow him to step into the realm of one’s own ‘I’. ... Thus, after the act of listening, I am another man, my own being is enriched and deepened because it is united with the being of the other.”
I was particularly struck by one piece of advice in particular: “Spend three days in the tomb with Jesus.” They explain: “When something really gets you upset and you want to lash out in anger, remember that Jesus spent three days in the tomb. Wait three days before responding. During those three days, pray. Especially pray for the person you are angry with. You will be amazed to find that on the third day, you are not so upset with them anymore and can respond rationally, calmly and lovingly.”
The National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., currently has an exhibit called “The Tomb of Christ,” taking you on a virtual reality pilgrimage — from all sides and above. For $15 it’s a steal — especially for those of us in the northeast — compared to the money most of us have to save to consider a trip to the Holy Land. I stayed until a virtual knock told me the Church of the Holy Sepluchre was about to close. There I had been in the tomb with Christ. Along with the prompting of the Bennetts, I’ve been staying there in prayer. It’s a holy place to be. If you’ve been to Jerusalem, use your memory. If you haven’t, use your imagination. Make use of an online image or tour, if it helps. The possibilities for peace with Christ are there.
The Bennetts write: “God made us in his image and likeness. God is a communion of persons, a God of relationships, of intimacy, of love. Thomas Merton once said that when we listen to God, we are hearing a loving conversation among the three Persons of the Blessed Trinity.” And they quote John’s Gospel: “What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me” (Jn 12:50).
Consider yourself invited — even called. Entering into holy silence with the Trinity is heaven compared to the overload we expose ourselves to daily.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review, and co-author of “How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice” (OSV, $17.95).