NOT NOW!

150 150 St. Mary St. Catherine of Siena

All of us have seen or heard of this example: a child wants something seen at the store and insists a parent purchase it – say a candy bar. The parent patiently explains that it is close to dinner and there will be no candy before supper. After the child sulks and whines, the parent offers to purchase the candy, but the child cannot have it until after supper. The child’s anger and insistence on being given the candy bar – right now – is on display for everyone to see in the check-out line at the supermarket!   A recent television commercial promises that if you act NOW, this new carpet will be delivered to your home tomorrow. Another promises a new flat screen T V can be had with super speed. And yet another indicates that with just one click of the mouse, one can have much faster internet service and instant access to …. The whole culture of “instant” and “faster access” to whatever seems to be spreading to everything, and I wonder what it means.   Remember the term delayed gratification? The whole point seemed to me to be about realizing that something good was going to come one’s way – but only after waiting, working, saving, studying, learning …. And instant gratification is all about having that “good thing” right now!  Is it just me or do we seem to have slipped into a culture where instant gratification is now becoming the only norm?  Why does everything have to be faster? Who has placed this high value of everything happening in an instant? Who or what is pushing this illusory truth? And at what cost do we have “faster and instant”?   One of the dangers of this immediate gratification mentality is that we can find ourselves dismissing as of little value or reducing to irrelevant achievements, knowledge, institutions and people who do not conform to the philosophy of the immediate. If something cannot be summed up in a sound bite, it is boring or insignificant. If persons cannot satisfy our “perceived” need in the twinkling of an eye, then they become disposable.  Let’s stop and take some time to reorient ourselves.  All around us we delight in God’s creation – nothing too instant about that.  People – you and me and everyone else – we are not instant. Relationships and experiences, growing and learning, working and sweating brought you to be the person you are. A friendship is a precious jewel and gift – not an instant thing. Love – while the culture might say otherwise – is an infinite, mysterious, overwhelming and wonderful experience that takes work and grows over time – never instant. Infatuation, yes, that is instantaneous; love is another matter.   And so, let us give ourselves permission to yearn for and look forward to.  Let us savor whatever is before us instead of looking for the next “thing” coming down the pike.  Let us take time to value the people we love, the experiences we cherish, the accomplishments we have labored to achieve.  Let us give ourselves the gift to stop, reflect, assess, and take account of what is truly important in our lives instead of getting high on the newest fastest whatever.  Let us responsibly discern that which truly requires immediacy and that which is at risk if we do not give it the time and attention it truly requires and deserves.   Children do not have the ability to delay gratification on their own.  They need the adults in their lives to teach them how to make good choices and how to soothe themselves when they can’t immediately get their own way or when they have to forego something because it is not good for them.   As adults, we need to do this for ourselves. We need to do it…for the sake of our children…for the sake of our world.

Fr. Ronan