St. Jerome in the Desert by Leonardo da Vinci. St. Jerome fled the inanities of his own time, the Late Roman Empire, to find spiritual renewal elsewhere.

For nearly a week now I have been without any internet. At first I wondered how I was going to survive. Then, as time passed, I realized something. There is something addictive about this whole thing. By the end of the process I felt a clarity in my mind. I felt stronger, even healthier. While I did not have any access to an online world, I returned to an old habit: reading, but reading books. There is something quite different, at least for me, in reading something online, and something on a printed page. The electronic vibes of the online world affect my mind differently than the simple reading of a printed page. I have been reading Shakespeare recently, so I delved into that even further. How much more delightful it is to read a few lines of great poetry than to browse through the never ending maze of various news sites, blog sites, and whatever else is out there! I felt refreshed, nourished, as if my soul had ingested something worthy, something mentally and spiritually healthy. I felt my mind and soul thank me for the good food of good reading. There is something refreshing about concentrating on one text, rather than be distracted by the multitudinous mounds of online information available at your fingertips. There is nothing wrong with that, but for me, my mind becomes fried after too much of it. Sometimes too much easily available information can be confusing, not enlightening. Our entire world seems to be rapidly becoming nothing more than an extension of a digital world, not vice versa. We are all so dependent now on this new technology for everything we do and this is something I do not rejoice in. Although the digital world we have created has great benefits, it also has great drawbacks and dangers as well. And it is all still such uncharted territory.

During this recent internet abstinence I also deepened my prayer life. St. Paul often talks about “putting on the new man”. How refreshing is prayer! Truly, through faith and prayer the new man can be put on. Of course this means turning your life around in various ways, but that is a small condition to accept for something greater. Again, I contrast the act of prayer, especially deep, contemplative prayer, with the frenzied physical and mental motions of our present world. Sometimes I think we are so unfortunate to be living in a world with so much technology, where all our privacy is vanishing, where every transaction you have ever made can be conjured up at the click of a keyboard, where we are rapidly becoming actual slaves to a gigantic, online virtual world. There is something inhuman about it all. And this virtual world of blogging, etc., while it can be fun and beneficial, is a sorry substitute for real flesh and blood interaction with others. Plus the constant negativity of so much of it is distasteful to me. So to delve into a deeper prayer life is more than refreshing. Especially when I consider how ancient a thing prayer is, how calming and enriching, the contrast between that and our hyper-hectic modern world immersed in industrial and technological infatuations is stunning, at least for me.

The great ancient religions, although hated by the hipster technocrats of the modern world, offer something to us that all the computers, all the latest gadgets, all the new sparkling digital contraptions and online innovations can hardly offer: peace of mind and spiritual nourishment. The fact that they have been doing this for millennia under various circumstances speaks to me of some eternal truth.