Smart technology will not save your life

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.

We are Analog


I read “The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter” (2016) by David Sax. It sounded fun as I get looks like “I’m such a bore” when I ask someone not to interact with my child by showing them photos or internet research on their phone or if I ask my phone-addicted guest to please put the phone away because my children are creeping their little wide eyes over his shoulder.

Why does it matter? Sax argues society has been told the tale too often that analog is dead, digital is the future. I put my Canon Rebel DSR (film) camera on consignment at Camera Center in Modesto. We sold the darkroom equipment on Craigslist. Chemicals were too expensive, so I never got started. Then Camera Center closed. I forgot to pick up my camera. Digital it is.


Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash


Digging through boxes to KonMari my way to peace and happiness, I happened across artistic photos I developed from my glory days as a college student in Minnesota. To look at a photograph and not a screen was remarkable.


Photo by krisna qodhar R on Unsplash


I want to listen to live music. I want to read a real book. I want to hold my newspaper when I read it. Ask Heather or Joyce at the library and they’ll tell you when I come in on Tuesdays, I pick up the paper, look for my articles and return it to the stack. There is something about seeing the real thing in real life. It feels different. It is exciting.

Sax explains why the experience is so different. As analog beings, we understand and engage with the world through our five senses. The more senses engaged, the deeper our engagement, the stronger our reaction. For a gross example, to smell and see and hear someone vomit is so much worse than just finding it on the bathroom floor.

As I watched an opera singer perform in the spotlight as the orchestra pulses the sound waves in our direction, the lights low, her costume flickers like so many stars, I held my breath in awe at the sheer power of her voice. Spotify has nothing on this.



Ashley Bell debuts as Madame Butterfly with Townsend Opera Players



I get antsy and easily distracted when there is too much digital in my life. It is a frequent trouble because I do not write these many words by hand.

In his book, “The Mindful Catholic,” Dr. Gregory Bottaro puts his finger on why that is, “Every time you use this device or watch TV, you practice anti-mindfulness. Imagine how many hours you have spent practicing anti-mindfulness exercises, in which your mind is not aware of what is actually present in the moment. In this time and space, it is a phone, or TV, or whatever, but your mind is focused on the news, or social media, or shopping, or whatever it is that you are looking at.”

Digital takes us away from the here and now. Because digital has made a whole host of things easier, we often assume it is better. Thus it floods our lives and world. Not thinking about carries us along for the ride and before we know it, anxiety levels are up, distraction is up, relationship quality is down.

Practicing mindfulness has the power to combat it. Do not let the term throw you. At its core, mindfulness is awareness of the present moment. Sit and read a book or, ahem, the newspaper, and enjoy it for all it has to offer. Notice how good it feels to hold the pages, the way your eyes travel on the page, how it feels to look at the page with all its imperfections. Notice the arch of your arm as you lift your cup of coffee and take a sip. The way the smell of coffee lingers even as the cup clicks against on the table.

That was your mindfulness exercise for the day. The world moves so fast, we have to choose to slow down. With all the information, all the stimulation, we have to choose to focus in.

Analog isn’t dead. Sales plummeted, stores closed, but production continues and is now growing. Let’s welcome the experience.

Learning to Let Mindfulness Fill the Gaps Through “The Mindful Catholic”

Previously published in the Hughson Chronicle-Denair Dispatch.




I learned about Dr. Gregory Bottaro’s book, “The Mindful Catholic,” and thought first, “this could be helpful for my writing” and then, second and more sheepishly, “I probably need that.” It is a self-help book, a how-to book in the practice of mindfulness, non-judgmental awareness of the present moment.

My life is no longer the slow pace of waiting for my baby to wake up, but a wide array of choices I can make. Coming to Chapter Four, “Telling Ourselves Stories,” I felt he was speaking to me. It feels like time and schedules drag me along, especially on the weekends. Overwhelmed, my life feels cluttered and fractured and never quite enough.

What am I missing?

Attendance to the present moment.




I think “The Mindful Catholic” may be one of the best non-fiction books I have read. The theology is sound and used to a purpose. While the title says “Catholic” the meaning comes in through a Christian worldview of what makes a person human.

If someone is a materialist, believing we are just bodies without a spiritual component, the foundation will not stand. Bottaro draws from a Catholic theological and philosophical tradition, described most thoroughly in the Catholic-Christian Meta-Model of the Person (CCMMP). This approach is the foundation and strengthens everything he has to say. For those Christians uncomfortable with now-common practices that have their origin in Eastern spirituality, Bottaro astutely defends a unique Christian tradition behind the mindfulness practice.

Because he draws from a tradition deeper than his own concepts his writing has layers of depth a reader could spend hours contemplating. For example, “Mindfulness is awareness of the present moment, God is the present moment. He defined himself as ‘I am who am.’ God sees all as a present moment, and it is our goal to see as he sees.”

Bottaro introduces himself and his credentials to the reader. Throughout the book, we gradually learn who Bottaro is, some of his habits (he hates traffic), about his wife’s labor and delivery (she is amazing) and in the chapter on acceptance, about the tragic circumstances this young professional faced in his family. He makes it clear he practices (and needs) this thing of mindfulness he preaches.

There are certain analogies and explanations therapists will use again and again. I feel Bottaro is walking us down a well-worn path, one he knows well. His analogies accomplish their goal of illustrating points in a thorough way. Bottaro does not waste words. I do not want an author to be my buddy. I bristle a little when writers refer to me as “friend” because it takes a lot to earn my trust as friend. I want an author to teach me something.

The practices begin in the traditional exercises of mindfulness and then develop into something wholly unique bringing in the core concept of mercy while staying true to the parameters of the psychological process.

He wisely repeats concepts again and again. Throughout the day, I catch myself calling me back to the present moment with my children using his phrase. “Doing versus being,” I say inside myself. Then, I look at them and attend to them in the way in which I have fallen short of late.

When Bottaro tells the story of his mother’s death, with passion and exhortation in Chapter Five, “Acceptance,” he describes what acceptance is and you know he has felt it.

I have felt it, too.

“The path of acceptance is the one you walk with peace, but peace does not mean the alleviation of suffering…

“This awareness will certainly take in painful realities, but it will also keep you open to seeing the deep beauty that lies inherently in all of life.”

As soon as I finished “The Mindful Catholic,” I wanted to pick it up again and dive deeper. My plan is, now, to go back through it and practice the exercises after each chapter. I picked up this book for its usefulness to my profession but found in it a treasure for my heart. I whole-heartedly recommend this book.