We are in Memphis for a couple of days. We have done some great tours, sweated a lot, seen the Big Muddy…but more on that tomorrow with the 7 Quick Takes that will post tomorrow night.
One of the things we’ve been doing is noticing, especially when we are in a park – small groups of people holding phones and alternately studying said phones and then looking up and squinting through the bright sun to scan, peer, point and study the area.
It’s pretty funny, to pursue the Pokemon catchers. I can only presume that there is an added layer of this reality, and somewhere out there, people are noticing me noticing the Pokemon Go players…and so on.
Actually, I first noticed them at home. There’s a ..what? Pokemon spot? Hovel? Lair? Whatever – across the road from our house. (My son downloaded the game, but was unsuccessful in playing much of it, having not a phone, but an old IPod. It just didn’t work for him. Darn. ) I’ve noticed cars slowing down as they pass, usually with an adult driving and a kid or two in the back, studying phones.
Today, we were in Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi River and watched groups of young adults, some on bikes, circle various areas, glancing between phone and empty space, back and forth. Same at Overton Park a little later – a scene that was especially fun as one guy drove away in his convertible, Pokemon theme song blasting.
(Video via Snapchat – follow me at amywelborn2)
Anyway, here’s a rundown of the faith-related Pokemon ponderings we’ll probably hear this weekend:
- Pokemon Go is a great, community building game. It’s an expression of the need for shared community and purpose that’s latent in all of our dealings. My homily will include the phrase, “Just as in the very popular Pokemon Go game that so many young – and not so young (chuckle) are playing – we can find great joy and community in our common search….”
- Pokemon Go is an expression of misplaced and misdirected spiritual yearning. My homily will include the phrase, “If only we used the time and energy we spent searching for Pokemon to search for God instead. If only we used the fellow-feeling we’re experiencing in helping others on this adventure in helping them find the Lord.”
- Why are adults playing games? It’s an indication of how willfully blind we are to the great, serious needs of the present moment that call for hard, serious work, not play.
- Isn’t it great that adults are playing games? Play is such an important part of life and spirituality. Josef Pieper. Liturgy. Play. Etc.
There’s also conversation about the opportunity for evangelization, given that some of the ..PokeSpots? Again…whatever – are churches and other religious spots. This I can get behind, but not in a lame way (I hope.)
By “lame way” I mean the particularly Catholic way of taking advantage of this kind of thing that means having several meetings about how to respond to this exciting teachable moment, and coming out of those meetings with some awkward response in Comic Sans font and PowerPoint that rolls out three months after everyone has already moved on to something else.
BUT…perhaps this can be a lesson in evangelization. Because here’s the thing: In any situation, the first step to evangelization is presence. Presence that happens after we go out on mission to our neighbors far and wide, and presence that happens when we nurture and develop a beautiful, vibrant presence where we are, a presence that is open, available, informative, inviting and attractive. And did I say open?
Pokemon Go will, at some point, go away. But the curious, the tired, the homeless, the angry, the beauty-seeking, the hungry will still be here. They’ll still come, for so many different reasons, with such varied personalities and expectations. They still walk by the place a thousand times before they finally screw up the courage to pause at the door, sensing that what they need to find lies within.
No new plans or movements are needed to meet this – not really, because it is really the same as it is ever was. An open door, people within willing to listen, talk a bit, but listen more. People who understand the delicate dynamic of being present just enough to point to, but not get in the way of, the One who invited and called in the first place.
And now, to get less spiritual about the thing, I can’t help but observe it from the perspective of social psychology. It’s fascinating really. A very successful experiment in getting millions of people to drop everything and enthusiastically go to certain places and away from others, and hand over all kinds of data about themselves while doing so. So yay for that.