Why you shouldn't read this blog

A thought that had been quietly shuffling around near the back of my mind recently decided to clear its throat and ask me to address it. Its quietness was part of the problem. ‘There’s too much coming in to your head and running around it, shouting’ was the essence of the complaint. And it was right.

It’s now possible, if you want, to never truly ‘switch off’. You can have your phone (which you carry around with you at all times) ‘push’ your emails to you the moment they arrive, along with calls and messages, and if there’s ever a pause you can go online and check out the blogs you subscribe to, the websites you read, your Facebook profile, what people are Tweeting, etc. etc. ETC. This can be useful but it can also be really unhelpful: a brain that is always being stimulated externally will surely lose the essential virtue of self-stimulation. Moreover, with so much being said so quickly, our ability to consider and meditate, to form an opinion after deep consideration rather than a catchy headline, must also be under threat. Use of the Internet is just one aspect of this.

Much as it galls me to quote Ferris Bueller, he was right about this: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” There are profound truths in this world which cannot be discovered in a sound bite. Perhaps they can be described, but not understood.

My review of Carl Honore’s In praise of slow has reminded me that this idea has been kicking around for a while, so I’ve now made a few changes where I can.

I’m reading much less about football! As I mentioned recently, sport loves to present itself out of all proportion in order to claim our hearts and our wallets. It doesn’t get much out of either of those from me, and I want it to get less time too.

I still want to know what’s going on in the world, and what other people think about it. The BBC, an occasional newspaper, The Week, and Bryan Appleyard’s blog all help with this. Along with, you know, talking to people.

I decided I needed to apply this to Christian material as well. Above all the other forms of Christianity, Evangelicalism loves the preached word and, therefore, the imperative. Which can make blog-reading seem like 17 people urgently telling you to address 170 areas of your life at once.  I realised that I was reading so many (perfectly well-motivated) suggestions that I didn’t know what to focus on. The virtue of reading a book, or a blog series perhaps, is that I get time with a subject, and this gives me space to think about it and, I believe, gives God more opportunity to speak to me. Of the bloggers I still read, Ray Ortlund is the closest I’ve found to something that is helpfully brief and thoughtful. Alongside him I’m glad to have my spiritual grandfather, Terry Virgo, leadership challenges from Steve Tibbert and Timothy Keller, and a few friends. They’re enough.

I think this will actually make me better at working and responding quickly when I have to, because my brain will have had downtime, and my thoughts and attitudes will be more considered and consistent. My brain is still itching to be stimulated all the time but I’m going to try to train it differently. Reading fewer blogs will help and if you stop reading mine to do the same then I wouldn’t blame you.