Thinking to be Alive

Chloe and I spend a lot of time in the car going to and from practice and tournaments. She uses the time to commandeer my Spotify account and play DJ while we drive. At this point in 2022, I know her taste and what she is going to choose. One of her favorite songs is Car Radio by Twenty-One Pilots.

In the song, the singer’s car radio has been stolen from his vehicle. This has left him unable to listen to music which means that he is forced to listen to the thoughts and feelings in his head rather than drowning them out with music. The song goes:

I hate this car that I’m driving
There’s no hiding for me
I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel

I have these thoughts, so often I ought
To replace that slot with what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole my car radio
And now I just sit in silence

Twenty-One Pilots (Car Radio)

Silence. Boredom. Stuck with our own thoughts. If we were in this situation in 2022, we would be on our phones scrolling through Social Media. Why? Because we don’t like to be left with our thoughts.

Earlier this year, I read Jay Y. Kim’s excellent book, Analog Christian: Cultivating Contentment, Resilience, and Wisdom in the Digital Age. The book is a warning about our addiction to technology that seeks to keep us scrolling and swiping. The pleasures that our technology brings is temporary and fleeting compared to the contentment, resilience, and wisdom that comes through a life that lives in the Spirit. Kim writes,

“But in the age of the smartphone, at even the slightest hint of discomfort, awkwardness, or boredom, we shift our focus downward and inward, away from the world and toward the screen. A few years ago, Apple revealed that the average iPhone user unlocks their phone eighty times a day. Why? Because much of life in the real world is uncomfortable, awkward, or boring, so we opt for digital escape. We increasingly prefer and default to worlds of our own making.”

Jay Y. Kim (Analog Christian, p.17)

In our smartphone-centric culture, we are quick to escape to worlds “of our own making” when we are bored or uncomfortable. We prefer digital over analog, that is we’d rather escape to a digital world than be confronted by our own emotions, thoughts, or even face-to-face relationships with other people.

Here is where Twenty One Pilots surprised me as I listened with Chloe. The song goes on to say that there are two things we can do: We can have faith or we can sleep. I think sleep in the song is what we do when things get overwhelming. We go to sleep, pull the blanket over our heads, and hope that things will be better when we wake up. Though experience tells me that this is not true.

The other option, according to the song is faith. Here are the lyrics:

Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

Twenty-One Pilots (Car Radio)

We cannot live in faith if we are asleep. Faith means waking up to the world around us. Faith means choosing the analog (our thoughts, emotions, friendships, and listening for God’s voice) rather than scrolling through our phone every time we get the slightest bit bored or are in an awkward moment. We need to live in faith, awake to what God is doing in the world around us. By the end of the song, the listener realizes that the singer has not replaced his car radio because he has made a choice- a step of faith- to live awake and not asleep.

As Christians, let us choose to live a life of faith that is fully awake to God, to others, and to ourselves no matter how awkward the silence may be.

About Steve LaMotte

Husband of Andrea and father of four amazing children. Pastor at Avenue United Methodist Church in Milford, Delaware.
This entry was posted in Faith, Music, Spiritual Formation, technology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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