“Our first and foremost task is faithfully to care for the inward fire so that when it is really needed it can offer warmth and light to lost travelers.” – H. Nouwen
I’ve begun to wonder if it is possible to tend the inward fire in a culture that encourages us to direct our attention outward at every opportunity. The reason we engage in the outward pursuits of the twenty-first century–namely, social media–it seems to me, is because of a collective fear. We all want to be seen, we all want to matter, we want to stay relevant, we don’t want to miss anything; we believe that if we don’t contribute something to the overwhelming din of information that there will be no chance of anyone ever hearing us.
These are not new concerns. Van Gogh said,
There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passersby only see a wisp of smoke coming through the chimney, and go along their way. Look here, now what must be done? Must one tend the inner fire, have salt in oneself, wait patiently yet with how much impatience for the hour when somebody will come and sit down–maybe to stay?
I’m starting to feel that social media is akin to standing outside your house shouting at everyone who walks by Look at the smoke coming out of my chimney! Check it out! It’s super smokey! It smells great! That’s my house it’s coming from! Watch how it billows! No one else’s smoke billows quite like mine does! and the more time you spend outside shouting about the smoke the less likely there is to be a raging fire when the day arrives that someone wants to come inside to warm themselves by it.
I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. I have languishing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts which I begrudgingly fill with content just like the rest of you. I am struggling mightily to figure out what is true for me in all of this, all the while wishing I could be spending that time taking bellows to the fire in my soul.Back to Writing Index