Alex Marcoux's Fan Box

Monday, March 09, 2009

Seeing in the Dark
When our eyes adjust to the darkness, things become clearer.

Last week the Pope urged Catholics to consider an electronic fast until Easter; asking followers to abstain from text messaging and surfing the web through the five-week Lenten period. I have to admit - I smiled at the thought since my kid recently had almost 15,000 text messages in a month.

I struggle with the concept of lent. I've always believed that God wants us to live abundantly. But an incident which occurred the week prior to the papal call to action got me thinking, 'Maybe the Pope is onto something!'

It was Thursday evening and my son and I had just finished cleaning-up after dinner.

"I'm going downstairs," my son said.

I knew he was going to play Xbox. I headed the opposite direction to check email in my office and get ready for my evening class. While sitting at my desk, the power surged and my computer screen went black. The typical white noise from the house was gone, and the only light came from the windows. Outside, the last rays of light emanated above the mountain peaks, west of our home.

Everything was silent, peaceful and still.

The stillness was abruptly interrupted by the pounding of my son's size 11 feet, scurrying up the basement stairwell, followed by, "Mom?!? There's no electricity!"

I smiled and headed for the pantry where I found the flashlight and lighter. The house wasn't completely dark, but I knew it was only a matter of minutes before darkness would take over. I lit a candle at the kitchen table, where my son now sat and went around the house lighting a candle in each main room.

When I returned to the kitchen, I found him sitting by candlelight trying to play his Game Boy, a battery operated electronic game I hadn't seen him play in years.

I must have made an audible sigh of disapproval because he looked at me and said, "What?! There's no light. I can't read! No TV! No Xbox! No computer! What else can I do?"

"Get the Uno cards," I said.

Within five minutes, the two of us were sitting on the floor on opposite sides of a coffee table. About a dozen candles illuminated the room and my son's face was beaming as he dealt the cards. I didn't worry about when the electricity would come on. I didn't worry that the furnace wouldn't work without power... it had been a glorious Colorado day with temperatures in the 60s.

We played, we laughed, and we talked. In those moments, both of us experienced the now. We had a sabbatical from the craziness of life - no phone - no computers - no electronics. Everything was simple and life's priorities became much clearer. While that power outage initially seemed to be an inconvenience, it turned out to be a blessing. To me it was a sign - a serendipitous event, something that started as a nuisance, but ended bringing great joy and insight.

I have to admit - when the lights came back on - I was a bit disappointed.

Suddenly, although still horrified by the idea of living without electronics for more than a day, I came to a realization. Maybe living a more simple life and making do with what we have, looking for the opportunities in the midst of "darkness" isn't such a bad thing.

Downsizing, making do and making lemon-aid out of lemons is in essence what the economy is forcing us to do. And I hate to say it, but perhaps it's happening for a reason. Could it be another serendipitous event in which we can expect to find some unexpected good? Could it be the impetus we need to turn inward, to go inside ... to grow spiritually? I've heard many people say the tough times are helping them look at things in a different light.

Some of my friends who have had trouble finding full time employment have actually started reevaluating their purpose and/or pursuing their dreams; dreams which have been put off because they've been too busy working. Many are retraining or starting new businesses and pursuing new passions they now have time for. Often, much to their surprise, while they may not be making the income they once enjoyed, they're finding fulfillment in following their purpose.

Another thing I've noticed, at least for myself, I'm beginning to live within my means. For me this means more dinners at home with family and friends, less time at Starbucks, more time sitting on my patio with a hot cup of coffee watching my dog chase squirrels. Boring? Maybe ... but at the same time I'm living in the moment and realizing I don't need so much stuff.

I know of one company that says although business has been slow, they're finding new and creative ways to use the staff's time. They are reaching out to help the community. This would never have been possible if they had the workload of the past. The company president even went so far to say it has helped employee moral during difficult times.

Are you noticing a theme here? In all these scenarios, some inconvenience, strife or even tragedy led to an unexpected good. In all cases - by slowing down, by being deprived of something, people are able to live in the now, seize the moment, and are watching the good that's come of it.

Like I said, I think the Pope is on to something. Could it be that many of the distractions we thought we needed to make us happy are actually tearing us away from being fully present, appreciating all that we have, and finding new ways to fulfill our dreams?

At first, when the lights go out, the electricity goes off, we often momentarily fumble around in the darkness ... but our eyes adjust and we begin to see.

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