Faithful Presence Amid Being Elsewhere


James Davison Hunter:

The very nature of modern life is its fragmentation and segmentation into multiple constellations of experience, knowledge, and relationships with each constellation grounded in a specific social and institutional realm of a person’s life. Under such conditions, we experience a fragmentation of consciousness—what someone recently called, “continuous partial attention.” This fragmentation is often reinforced by a world of hyperkinetic activity marked by unrelenting interruption and distraction. On the one hand, such conditions foster a technical mastery that prizes speed and agility, and facility with multiple tasks—for example, using e-mail, I-M, the cell phone, the iPod, all the while eating lunch, holding a conversation, or listening to a lecture. But on the other hand, these very same conditions undermine our capacity for silence, depth of thinking, and focused attention. In other words, the context of contemporary life, by its very nature, cultivates a kind of absence in the experience of “being elsewhere.” Faithful presence resists such conditions and the frame of mind it cultivates.

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, p. 252 (emphases mine).

E-mail’s Tyranny: How to Control It

Want to better manage your e-mail? Become less distracted? Increase focus and productivity?

So do I.

In The Tyranny of E-Mail, John Freeman suggests ten ways to cut down on e-mail’s pervasive influence:

  1. Don’t send
  2. Don’t check it first thing in the morning or late at night
  3. Check it twice daily
  4. Keep a written to-do list and incorporate e-mail into it
  5. Give good e-mail
  6. Read the entire incoming e-mail before replying
  7. Do not debate complex or sensitive matters by e-mail
  8. If you have to work as a group by e-mail, meet your correspondents face-to-face
  9. Set up your desk to do something else besides e-mail
  10. Schedule media-free time every day

Also, adopt the e-mail charter.

You can thank me later for helping you become less distracted and focus on the things that matter.