As part of our downsizing last year, we got to crunch several different rooms all into one. Now the center of our home is a 25’ x 17’ rectangle with one side cut diagonally to make room for the large brick fireplace we will never use. The room is directly accessible from the hallway and the front door and also opens directly both into the kitchen and out to the back yard. Very little natural light shines into the room, which we illuminate with one ceiling fan light and six lamps. And in this cozy, dark space, we’ve also managed to cram in three desks, two computers, two book cases, a treadmill, a couch, and the TV.
I’m glad that Wendy and I grew up playing Tetris; we never knew it would come in so handy!
At first, I objected to this layout because it does exactly what I hate in modern western homes: it puts our television at the center of our home.
I sincerely believe that people create temples everywhere in their lives. The temple is the place where the universe is recreated symbolically to surround its most valued component. Because of its sacredness, every temple has levels of accessibility. The ancient temple in Israel demonstrates this with the outer and inner courts, the temple itself, and then the innermost room: the Holy of Holies, which only one high priest is allowed enter. This room contains the Throne of God and the Law that was given to reunite a fallen people to their perfect Creator. In this temple, the return to God’s presence is the center of the symbolic universe.
The temple pattern is reconstructed everywhere that we humans center our various symbolic universes, but one of the best examples is banks. We are all so reverent in our banks! Everyone talks softly and shuffles around quietly. Just like a temple should be, the bank is clearly demarcated into zones of accessibility that reinforce our respective roles of worshipers, clergy, and high priests. And we all know and revere the contents in the bank’s Holy of Holies.
The home, any home, is also a temple. Access to it is limited because the space is sacred and private. It is the symbolic and even functional center of a family’s universe. And in our home, we strive to keep Christ as the center focus. The Apostle Richard Scott has said: “Deep inside each of us is a need to have a place of refuge where peace and serenity prevail, a place where we can reset, regroup, and reenergize to prepare for future pressures. The ideal place for that peace is within the walls of our own homes, where we have done all we can to make the Lord Jesus Christ the centerpiece.”
So what does it mean, then, if the television is placed squarely in the physical center of the home? Does that mean that watching TV is the center of my family’s universe?
That’s how I always saw it. And we’ve always gone to great lengths to put our TV somewhere away from the middle of our house. But did that make us watch less TV? Did it make us watch better TV? Did it keep us together more than separate? The answer to all that is actually NO, it definitely did not.
I recently watched a great animated talk by Dave Coplin about the way office layouts can support or stifle collaboration, creativity, and getting stuff done. He highlighted a new trend of creating “open” offices where almost all the computers face outward so that passersby and supervisors can always see what people are doing. The exceptions, of course, are the leaders in the organization. Their computer screens still face inward and are above common observation. Coplin compared this to a wild savanna where the lion gets to sit calmly and watch the anxious gazelles.
In the past, our computers and TV were in different rooms, often very private and remote from each other. It was easy to watch TV alone—even in a locked room. And it was easy to be on the computer with no risk of anyone approaching from behind. All of this meant that, as a family, we were more likely to be spread in different rooms throughout the house. And it meant that we each had much more opportunity to browse sites or flip channels until we got stuck on something we’d otherwise not linger on.
Again from Richard Scott: “Technology, when understood and used for righteous purposes, need not be a threat but rather an enhancement to spiritual communication.”
I’ve learned that technology itself is not what will make or break my family. It’s the way we use it. And, to my surprise, putting it in the heart of our home where we can better share and better regulate its use has turned out to be a great blessing instead of the complete detriment I’d always imagined.
What I’ve come to realize is that I want my family to be located in the center of my home. The first thing we said when we downsized was that we were certainly all going to be a lot closer. And that’s been true—we can’t just tell the kids to go upstairs. We can’t study in perfect quiet. And we can’t watch TV behind a locked door. Instead, I study while Wendy makes jewelry while Olivia watches American Idol while Isaac plays Minecraft. And all in one room! (Thank goodness for headphones.) We’ve all learned to be patient with each other and get along a lot better than we used to.