Dear Brothers, Colleagues and Friends,

Being a phone would be good, don’t you think? A smartphone.

You would be so precious to people. You would never be left out, always included in whatever was happening. They would drop everything to attend to you; all you would need to do is give the slightest signal. You would be irresistible. If you were presumptuous enough to make a loud noise, then people would fall over themselves to rush to see what you wanted. Even when they were in the middle of a family dinner or an important meeting at work, they would sneak a sly look your way, perhaps many. In fact, they would often prefer be looking at you, ignoring friends and colleagues, absorbed in what you had to offer. And many of these others would probably understand, because they might be doing the very same.

It would be up to you to signal when you’d had enough, when you needed time alone to re-energise. It would all be on your terms. You’d take your time. You couldn’t be asked to give more than your reserves allowed.

Yet you would be indispensable, essential. How could people possibly live without you? They couldn’t. They rely on you. They need you. You are the one who tells them what they should be doing and when, and what the weather will be like when they get there. You have lots of fun facts; you can always provide an arresting distraction. You let them know when others want to communicate with them. They can deflect the blame to you when a message doesn’t get through or when they don’t want to receive it. You can be their accomplice. You can do sums for them, check their spelling, tell them how to get to places while they drive, and rescue them when they are lost. You can project their Powerpoint presentations and play their music. You can do all their social media. And the footy scores.

You are the first thing on their mind in the morning, and their last thought before going to sleep at night. In fact, you are really the one in control of everything. You call the shots. You only have to whisper, and they jump.

But how smart are you, really? How clever is it to intrude into a person’s personal and professional relationships the way that you do, even to hijack them? How do you feel about manufacturing a virtual cone of silence for people, insulating them from having to be present? Or conning them that they can’t turn you off? Or what about your robbing a person of the opportunity to have the respite and space that you yourself so regularly demand? And what are you teaching young people?

But then, you don’t feel anything, do you? You don’t do the hard yards of relationships, of give and take, of empathy, of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of self-giving. On second thought, it would be dumb to be a phone. Or to be controlled by one.

Nisi Dominus

Brother Michael Green fms - National Director, Marist Schools Australia