And To Think That I Saw It

When I leave home to walk to school,

Dad always says to me,

“Marco, Keep your eyelids up

And see what you can see.”

Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, penned the lines of his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, 75 years ago. In 1940, the world, presumably, did not have as many distractions as we do today. There was no television, Internet, emails, smart phones, or texting. But, even so many years ago, Dr. Seuss gave us a reminder not to go through life with eyes focused down, but to look up and “see what you can see.”

On a recent trip to a Florida amusement park, over and over again, I watched as parents missed the eyes of their children light up over the wonder because their heads were down, checking their phones.

I saw preteens and teens go through entire attractions with head down, texting, playing games, Instagramming, and Snapchatting, dulling the memories their families hoped to create.

Children were placated while standing in line, playing games and watching videos. Over and over again, I heard, “Dad, can I see your phone?” Or, “Mom, give me your iPad!”

I watched hundreds of people stand shoulder-to-shoulder and watch a fireworks display through the screens of their iPhones so that they could capture every moment. At the same time, their children’s squeals of delight went unacknowledged and some missed many amazing special effects because they were outside the periphery of the screen’s eye – all for the sake of getting it on camera.

We have become a culture … a people… who keep our eyes focused more on our devices than those near us. Marketers have recognized the phenomenon that technology has overtaken our lives and are taking advantage of it. Last week Apple introduced its new Apple Watch. On Apple’s website, the iWatch is promoted as a representation of “a new chapter in the relationship people have with technology.”

Have we bought into the belief that we can build relationship in and through technology?

Do we validate our worth based on the number of “likes” we get on a Facebook post?

Do we go through withdrawals if we don’t always have our phones with us and get frustrated if the Internet connection is slow, or friends do not instantly respond to our texts?

Do we keep our eyes focused downward more than upward, missing what is right in front of us?

I am an avid user of technology. It is helpful to me in my work, I like staying connected to my family, and yes, I do check Facebook on a daily basis. But as I watch what is happening around me I have become convicted that I need to “keep my eyelids up and see what (and who) I can see.” And because this is a daily battle for me, living and working in a technologically driven world, I keep boundaries and reminders constantly before me.

  1. Be willing to disconnect for a time. In my own life, I intentionally turn off email, choose not to check Facebook, and essentially disconnect for periods of time. The more antsy I become during these disconnected times, the more I am reminded how dependent I have become. Disconnecting periodically helps keep in perspective the role technology should have in my life.
  2. Ponder in my heart more than instant sharing with the world. Mary, Jesus’ mother, experienced and saw so much, especially in the first couple of years of motherhood. But, we read that she pondered all this in her heart. There are experiences we will have and memories created that should be cherished and held close to ourselves and those we love. Our over-share culture almost cheapens these moments that should be held closest to our hearts.
  3. Keep people first and technology second. Technology is wonderful and extremely helpful in our lives today. But, technology is still a thing. When I am with family or friends, I want to be careful not to communicate that what is happening on my phone or other device is more important that they are. Put the phone down. That text message or email will be there for later.
  4. Relationships are best built through face-to-face communication. Look up. Who do you see? Yes, I can use technology to communicate facts and information, but I do not see a tear, hear excitement in a voice, or give a reassuring touch through a device. That only comes by talking to, being with, and seeing a person in the moment.

 

At the end of Mulberry Street, Dr. Seuss writes,

Dad looked at me sharply and pulled at his chin.

He frowned at me sternly from there in his seat,

“Was there nothing to look at . . . no people to greet?

Did nothing excite you or make your heart beat?

 

When I one day meet God face to face, I wonder if He will ask the same thing? Will He look at me and point out the people that I missed, the opportunities that marched past me, the relationships that are still too shallow, and a passion never discovered all because I had my head down and never saw what there was to see?

Photo Credit

2 thoughts on “And To Think That I Saw It”

  1. Wzrd1 says:

    One upside of that “oversharing” was, I got to see my granddaughter take her first steps while I was in a war zone.
    That is a privilige that no other generation could claim, as letters and photographs took months to reach service members.

    Still, I don’t waste much time on facebook. I do spend a *lot* of time on the computer, but I also give my wife the time and conversation that she deserves. It’s worked well enough that we’re now married for 33+ years. A marriage that survived tough times and tougher times, a military career and well, my stubborness that pops up from time to time. I’m retired from the military now and am working securing government networks.
    Regrettably, I can’t withstand much offline time, as I work in information security and that landscape changes on a near daily basis.
    But, some ways, I’m described as “old school”, for even in the militlary and even when I was contracting with the military, I engaged in face time as often as possible. An e-mail can’t provide vocal inflection and verbal signals of intent. A telephone call cannot show facial expressions and body language. All are necessary at times so that the point of a coversation is fully gotten across.

  2. Oh wow Dr. Stovall. You have hit the nail on the head and you did it in fewer words than most “mommy blogs” out there. In the last days the Lord told us to “look up, for your redemption draweth nigh.” Maybe He too knew that there would be this epic proportion of pull towards the “down”. Thank you for sharing and pulling our eyes up without judging that technology has it’s place in a believer’s walk. All the best. Kathleen