Culture At Large

Why I Got Rid of My DVR

Mary Hulst

I've made a bold choice for this New Year.  I've decided to give up my DVR.

A DVR is a Digital Video Recorder.  It allows you to pause, rewind, and record TV shows with alarming ease.  For me, this meant I could start a program, pause it, go get a cup of tea and a cookie, and return to my chair not only with the benefit of catching every moment of, let's say, The Colbert Report, but also with the added joy of fast-forwarding through commercials.

I loved my DVR.  I loved how easily it worked, how I could scroll through a program guide and push one button and have a show recorded.  I loved how I could replay scenes I missed or wanted to see again.  I loved how I could review exactly how Michigan scored that particular touchdown (and during this past season, having those moments stored up was important because they happened so rarely...).

I loved my DVR.  But I hated what it was doing to my brain.  I would sit and listen to something at work--a student's sermon, for example--and realize that I had missed the last 30 seconds of what she had said.  I would immediately think "Hit pause and rewind!" only to remember that such a maneuver doesn't work in real life.

My reliance on my DVR at home had led me to rely on its methods for the rest of my life as well.  Missed the weather details on the radio?  Pause and rewind!  Wasn't listening in that meeting?  Review the recording later!  I realized that my DVR was teaching my brain that what was happening in the present moment wasn't worth my complete attention.  I did not need to be fully present in the reality of the day to day.  I could simply hit pause and rewind.

But I can't.  I can't get back those moments when I wasn't present.  They're gone.  The student's sermon, the meeting, the colleague laying out some great ideas in my office--if I'm not fully in the moment, I am missing out.  I am not honoring the other people in the room and--most importantly--I'm not aware of what God is doing right then.

My DVR taught me that whatever's going on in my mind is much more interesting than whatever is going on around me.  I can let me mind wander to other things--grocery lists, emails that need to get out, the sermon I need to write--and let the world swirl around me.  But God is in the swirl.  God is in the student's sermon and in the meeting and in the conversation with my colleague.  The God who exists outside of time is also in every moment, present and beckoning, and if my mind is trained to not pay attention, I'm going to miss him.

My New Year's Resolution is to re-train my mind.  To get my whole self to be present in the present.  To be in the swirl.  To be with my God.  To be.

So farewell, dear DVR.  My soul cannot afford you.

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