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Not Sharing: A Virtue to Consider

The trout rose to my fly on my last cast, which only sweetened the thrill and beauty of it all. I had an hour to kill, and Boulder Creek was right there in all of its fall glory–dappled cottonwood leaves in the eddies; the creek seemingly putting itself to sleep before the winter, its flow slow and somnolent, almost willing winter’s ice. And as my dry fly bobbed towards me in a ripple, I was already thinking of reeling in my line and getting back to church to pick up my daughter from her activity, when the fly submerged with a flash of color.img_0835
Now with this large-for-Boulder-Creek trout on my line, my thoughts raced in a different direction, already thinking of a properly profound caption to accompany a Facebook post that was only minutes away.

But the post never came. I resisted, and did not share. Rebellion.

How strange that I had to will myself to keep this moment just between the three of us–the trout, me, and our Creator. Stranger still what our thoughtless, perfunctory sharing of everything and anything is doing to our souls. When every private moment becomes public, when everything joyous and profound and insightful is immediately bequeathed to our “friends” (cough cough)  and followers something is lost.

As a pastor, I have noticed a similar and significant corollary to this with my preaching. Particularly when I am preaching a lot, every insight I have from God, every sweet moment in prayer, every snippet of revelation be it sacred or secular, all of these immediately–in the very moment !–get placed into a running queue of sermon material. The danger is obvious: my life in, with, and for God has been commodified, a collection of items to insert into a 25 minute monologue so as to inspire, impress, convict, and (undeniably) entertain. The solution is equally obvious: I must put a hedge around my existence as a child of God. This certainly does not mean that I don’t share anything; it simply means that I don’t share everything, or, perhaps more importantly, that I don’t make that mental, hyperspeed jump from private insight to imagined public content.

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Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog, by Caspar David Friedrich (1818); revised image by Kim Dong-kyu

Well, back to our original topic, with apologies to those of you not interested in such things as God or sermons. When I share the trout pic, or the cute-kids pic, or the I’m-in-this-awesome-place-and-you’re-not pic, etc., I immediately dimish the pleasure in the thing itself (the Ding-an-sich for those of you who are into Kantian philosophy) and privilege the derivative pleasure of making that thing public. It’s all about dopamine, peeps. Those little neurotransmitters were going crazy when I had that trout on the line in Boulder Creek, as they also would have been as I cravingly checked in after my almost-was post and saw the likes trickle in. Play this game often enough, and the trout on the line brings little or no joy, for it exists only as an ephemeral event to be used–and quickly discarded–for digital pleasure. At the extreme, I would never really be in the creek, for I would always be in front of the screen, even when I wasn’t. Know what I mean?

So, even though I hate slippery slope arguments, this one I find compelling. Stop sharing, people, at least everything. Or give yourself a break every once in a while, for a week, or a month. Or leave your phone in your truck when you’re fishing. Sometimes, not sharing is a virtue.

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