Look all around you


The first round of the Masters Golf Tournament today at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia will be a step back in time. The spectators will be unusually quiet and particularly observant. If you don’t know why, you could probably watch this event for a while before figuring out what was different. For the spectators, there will be literally nothing to do but watch golf. Suddenly, they will be observing everything — the conversations between golfer and caddie, the long walk through the course, the down time of waiting for other players, the discussion over choosing a club, the laughter of someone cracking a joke, the color of the sky, the breeze in their faces, the whispers of those around them … I could go on and on about details formerly missed, but not this time. I’m imagining the spectators (they call them “patrons” at this event) standing with arms folded, or hands in their pockets or at their sides — a little awkward over not knowing what to do with themselves. What is different? What am I talking about that makes these obvious things so unique? Simple. No cellphones. No cellphones are allowed on the course.

I am not a big fan of golf. I don’t follow it except to catch the headlines now and then or stop to watch for a few minutes in a restaurant or an airport. I’ve played enough of it to know the beauty of walking a well-manicured course, the joy of unleashing a fine shot onto the green, or the frustration off not being able to do what’s in your mind to do — the latter being the most common of my golf experiences. And yet, even imagining a crowd of spectators with nothing in their hands, and nothing to do but watch, is a lesson in observation we can all learn from.

Think of these very same spectators with cellphones in their hands, staring down at them, their fingers pecking out a message, or holding them up in front of their faces for a selfie, or a picture or video of a golfer taking a shot. One golfer says it’s like a wall of cellphones pointed at them. Imagine people spending more time capturing this event than experiencing it, and you have a picture of the way the cellphone has changed how we experience things. Getting it down second hand has in some cases superseded taking it all in the first time.

In 1970, my second summer out of college, I took a 3-month trip by myself through Europe and South Africa. At one point I was without my camera and wanting to capture an incredible view of Florence, Italy from an art museum atop a hill on the edge of town. Instead off kicking myself for leaving my camera behind, I decided to take in the scene with my memory, and I sat there for well over an hour trying to


Florence, Italy

burn the picture into my mind. Well, it worked. And now, 48 years later, I can still pull that picture up — the flesh colored houses with dark green shutters, the red tile roofs and cypress trees hugging the lanes, and towers all over town with turrets on top, and everything blending together as if it were a painting.

“You’ve got to stop, look up and look around you,” said one golf patron. Indeed, these days we have to be intentional about how we experience life. At Augusta, it took a rule to force people to be more naturally observant. Maybe we can do the same without the rule.

Look all around you and see what is real

Here what is true and be sure what you feel

Touch someone near you in love if you can

Give all you have and be part of God’s plan

       – from the song “Look All Around You” by John Fischer

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11 Responses to Look all around you

  1. Greg Krejci says:

    I have been convicted to become more aware of my surroundings when I am alone in a crowd. The first reaction nowadays is to instantly reach for the phone, sort of like a pacifier in a sense. Lately I have been looking for those who do not have cell phones and earnestly trying to make connection with them in some way. Even if it is just a nod or a smile. Being that there is such a wall of cellphones everywhere we go, even the slightest form of humanity can be refreshing. I know I feel better when the smile or nod is returned. I know it’s not much but every little bit helps.

  2. Andrew P. says:

    “Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
    He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
    Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.”

    – Isaiah 40:26

  3. John A Fagliano says:

    Today’s Catch and Greg’s comment got me thinking about a scene from a movie that was before the current smart phone age but it’s message speaks louder today. The lead character was walking along and a woman bumped into him. They each whispered “excuse me” and walked along. But after a couple of seconds she walked back to him and said:

    “Hey. Could we do that again? I know we haven’t met, but I don’t want to be an ant, you know? I mean, it’s like we go through life with our antennas bouncing off one another, continuously on ant autopilot, with nothing really human required of us. Stop. Go. Walk here. Drive there. All action basically for survival. All communication simply to keep this ant colony buzzing along in an efficient, polite manner. “Here’s your change.” “Paper or plastic?’ “Credit or debit?” “You want ketchup with that?” I don’t want a straw. I want real human moments. I want to see you. I want you to see me. I don’t want to give that up. I don’t want to be ant, you know?”

    From the 2001 animated movie, “Waking Life”

  4. Mark D Seguin says:

    Can u please, Pastor John pretty please think back after u got home from the hospital & had someone write the Catch 4 u… How it would have felt if that request to find a replacement was ignored well u may be picking up on how I feel after asking u to please, pretty please record yourself reading the Catch, yet being ignored regarding it…

    PS I had a pretty good feeling you wouldn’t developed a system of monitoring this Catch board, but go by trying to remember… Yet as I took the time to type out back then everyone forgets, so develop a system to remind you to check it for question every day…

    • jwfisch says:

      I try to check the comments the next morning. as I’m doing today. Often you guys give me fodder for more Catches. Re-establishing the audio Catches is a frustrating barrier. The system I was using broke down and I haven’t been able to overcome that hurdle. So thank you. I know a number of people prefer the audio version; I will step up that priority. Thank you for building a fire under me.

      • Mark D Seguin says:

        And thank you Pastor John for my lack of using people skills… & please forgive me in that….

  5. johnhaak says:

    Great stuff today John.
    Paying attention to others is now Counter Cultural behavior. I needed to hear this today.
    It is my favorite line from the movie “Michael” … “How did you know that?” … “I pay attention.”
    Truth is all around and it will find you if you want it. [To paraphrase another favorite movie line.]

  6. jwfisch says:

    Mark, you’re forgiven! Good news … we should have an audio Catch back this week. At least we are working on it.

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