Last night, my son Will called downstairs and asked me to check my email. When I opened it—there was an invitation to a ZOOM meeting—from my own son in my own house!! Now, this may seem like another instance of technology eroding the American family. It may seem a shame that in a time of isolation, loneliness, and families kept apart that my teenager took advantage of one of the many “social media” platforms available to bring us together partially—when we could have just met in our own living room--but that’s part of my point. An unexpected blessing, if you will, may be the acknowledgement of our deep connections that can, surprisingly, be fed by technology.
Long before COVID-10, we were lamenting the distance that technology seems to foster between people. The signs of “social distancing” were all around us as people sat three feet apart on cell phones and never looked or spoke directly to each other. It wasn’t physical distancing, as it is now, it was spiritual and emotional distancing, and it was rampant. COVID-19 has only made tangible what was an invisible distancing for some time; but I see something, perhaps wonderful, that may be happening because of it.
The Roman philosopher Cicero (ca. 106-43 BC) said, "The face is a picture of the mind as the eyes are its interpreter." Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:22-24, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.” From these two sources we receive the well-known phrase, “the eyes are the window of the soul.” Wisdom is telling us that we are not only informed, but comforted by the sight of the other’s face. Now, while we have been able to see the eyes over the rim of our masks, it is the whole face we are missing. Ironically, an electronic meeting place can supply a mask-fee communion.
How many times in the past several months have I heard the phrase, “It’s so good to see you,” ring out over ZOOM. To see each other, too look at each other, has been given a new lease on life. We have been pulled away from our screens as spectators to the awareness that those same screens can be an extension of ourselves—as active participants. As Will and I talked, I was surprised how quickly I felt appreciative and impressed, even comforted. The ZOOM invite my son sent was an invitation to visit, engage, chat and be together in ways that an in-person meeting (Have you done chores? Are you ready for bed?) may have missed.
To receive a ZOOM invite may just be a request for you to join a meeting, but it may also be arms flung open and hearts lifted high. It may be a call to you, beloved and wanted, to see your face and to be comforted by your presence. I look forward to seeing you soon!
Father Bill Burk†