Two Saturdays ago, I got engaged to my girlfriend Kira. The last few weeks have been joyous, busy, fun, and surreal as we share the story, show off the ring, and begin to plan for our wedding and future. It’s exciting!
Among the many thoughts and emotions that I’ve considered over the last two weeks is the question of just what it means to be engaged–and not just in the “going to get married” sense of the word. What does it mean to be engaged in one’s life, rather than disengaged? How do we remain observant and present in a world of such overwhelming fragmentation and distraction?
It’s something I’m always thinking about and wrestling with. Just the other night I was at a party and was struck by the fact that almost everyone around me was looking down at their phones rather than engaging with the people right in front of them. I’m sure you notice this phenomenon too. It seems that whatever it is we are obsessed with checking (texts, tweets, Facebook, etc.) is more engaging these days than face-to-face conversation.
I lead a pretty busy life and always have a lot to do; but I try my hardest to remain engaged in every part of it. I try to make time for people I care for, having a meal with them or a slow cup of coffee. But I also have a pile of books I want to read — a world of literature and art I want to take in, slowly, deliberately. And nature: I want to have time to take long walks on Sunday afternoons; to jog around the neighborhood; I want to be there when the first waft of Autumn can be sensed. I want to travel. I want to write. And then there are the external goings-on of the world that I want to be informed about and conversant with: global news, American politics, sports, movies, music.
The world is so much.
So what are we to do? On one hand I feel the impulse to just throw up my hands and focus on only a few of the things I listed above, recognizing that there will never be time to read everything I’d like to read or watch all the movies I’ve been told I need to watch. Yet the other impulse urges me to try anyway — living life as fully as I can, even if it means sacrificing depth for breadth. It’s the tension between “deep and wide” that I suspect most of us struggle with to some extent.
“Engagement” in terms of marriage is just a season; but in the broader sense it is a life’s calling. I want to always be fully engaged with the life, love, beauty and experiences I am given. It may not mean that I need to know about everything or am fully informed/aware of all that would interest me. It may simply mean that I take more time to immerse myself in a book, or quiet myself in garden, or enjoy long meals with the people I love. Maybe it actually means that less is more — that a slower, more thoughtful approach is a fuller one.
In the case of love, maybe it means that “engagement” isn’t just a prologue to a life to come or a season of anticipatory impermanence. Maybe it’s the standard for joy in all that will follow: Being fully present, fully engaged, to one another and to all that is precious in our everyday lives.