Bombardment is a funny word. First of all, if you say it without thinking about what it means, it just sounds ridiculous. Bom-bard-ment. How strange.
But what's striking to me is the degree to which we're subjected to a kind of bombardment nearly every moment that our eyes and ears are open: Information bombardment. (Hah...bombardment.)
I know a lot of people talk about the need for digital detox, that our dependence on digital stimulation is past the point of unhealthy, but I think we're beyond even that. We are so completely enmeshed with Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/the-Internet-in-general that there's no way to extricate ourselves from our current path. It's like digital global warming.
Sometimes I find myself waking up from a dream about the stupid little Bejeweled game I play on my phone when I'm not "doing" anything, and I know my digital dependence pales in comparison to many others. What I worry about are the kids who are growing up with an iPad in their crib, the kids who won't behave in a restaurant without watching YouTube videos on papa's iPhone all through dinner. These things scare me. If I'm dreaming about this stuff, it must be part of their DNA.
About three months ago, I started a mentorship group with two of my best friends. We wanted to talk about integrity, respect, love and curiosity with seventh- and eight-grade boys.
We talk about everything -- parents, drugs, girls, bullies, death, school and what's been the most powerful thing for me to experience is the depth and capacity for greatness within each one of these young men. For almost all of them, this is the first chance they've had to talk about these things in a safe place.
And that's what worries me most about this unrelenting, black hole-esque gravitational pull of digital technology. Facebook and Twitter are incapable of replacing the feeling of having your truth be heard by a circle of your peers, yet that seems to be our current and unavoidable trajectory.
When we first had the idea for this project, we told ourselves that we would learn just as much as the kids, but I had no idea the degree to which we would be correct. Find a teenager, let him know you respect him, and ask him what he cares about. The result will astound you.
The last 30 or so minutes of each of our meetings are spent in a confidential circle, one person at a time talking about whatever they want. Wanting to be vulnerable with the kids, I shared a romantic quandary I was in with the hopes that they could see that they weren't the only ones confused by girls. The advice I got (from a kid who has overcome developmental challenges that I quite frankly cannot fathom), was the most astute and mature advice on romance that I've ever received.
Truth, it's clear to me, does not care about the mechanism by which it's delivered.
For three or four hours a week, I talk with 14-year-olds about the principles that should govern a man's life. And then we run around in the woods and shoot each other with Nerf guns.
We're still under bombardment, but it's a start.