Yesterday I sent to my colleagues an article by Beckie Supiano (and wonderfully illustrated by Ron Coddington) entitled, “Why is Zoom So Exhausting?” It seemed an appropriate read, especially after being on Zoom for much of this week. Videoconferencing is one way we are replicating what would have been residential. Residential is beginning to sound so “yesterday”—and at the same time so alluring! Oh to be back, rubbing shoulders with people, getting in the faces of colleagues, high-fiving students, embracing friends, and sharing that occasional hug. I look forward to the day digital will be something “archaic.”
What is exhausting about Zoom? Some would say the stimulation of staring into numerous faces at close range and on onscreen. The feeling of hollow impersonation. One student demonstrated in our class how he can manipulate the site so that he appears to be there, but he really isn’t. (At the same time, others are there, but they aren’t). As much as you want this to be personal, you do walk away feeling like you have talked into space. I’ve just made a passionate comment, followed by silence. Screens freeze. Were people moved at all? This can be wearing.
Maybe it is body language. There is this flatness. Is it safe to unmute and talk? It can feel a bit like the paralytic trying to get into the pool, but then someone gets there first. Will it be thirty-eight years? How am I coming across on screen? One of the exhausting features is constantly seeing yourself (though I am told you can remove this feature). Monitoring your own nonverbal communication is unnerving. Do I look interested? Interesting? Do I look as old as Clint Eastwood looks onscreen in The Mule?
Maybe it is part of the fatigue we are all feeling. There is this longing to be with flesh and blood. Yes, I am so grateful I can work from my computer up at the cabin. I enjoy the early morning paddle on the river. It is so great to be out here in the wilderness. But there is this dullness. I am beginning to go through a kind of withdrawal. I am getting weary of excarnational living—this defleshing of life, thanks to the pandemic. This order to not get close to others. I am longing for incarnational relationships (something Michael Frost develops in his good book, Incarnate).
For most of us, I am guessing it is beginning to feel like a long backpack trip, in which the freeze-dried dehydrated pork chops have long since lost their appeal. We are ready to replace paper thin with thick and juicy. Engage with the real, with all of its nutrients. People face to face. Conversations over meals. Concrete supplanting abstract. There’s a reason God came to this world and took on flesh. Imagine if he chose to be virtual. Rather, Jesus came, and there was no social distancing between him and others. And when he returned to heaven, he returned as both God and man. He is Spirit and flesh forever. And then he commanded the church to be his tangible hands and feet, the body of Christ in a world that needs the touch of God.
There’s also a reason that one day we will receive resurrected bodies. Living as spirits won’t be enough. There will be nothing virtual about heaven. No ethereal illusion of intimacy—no image, representation, and simulation. Rather, banquet meals and resurrected flesh to resurrected flesh fellowship. There will be no need for Zoom, no masks, no gloves, no curbside–no weariness-just as there will be no pandemics—ever!