Spiritual lessons from the mania over fidget spinners

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As a parish priest, before every Sunday Mass, I work with the sacristan and assign the different parts and duties of the Mass to the various altar servers. Most of them have always been attentive and listened patiently. That is until the fidget spinner came along.

Now, I walk into the sacristy and I see the servers trying to spin the little device on the counters, the sink faucets, and even some of the blessed items of the church.

As I ask around, I’m finding out that my experience isn’t unique. It appears the new fidget spinner is taking youth culture by storm. They’re popping up and literally spinning all over the place.

So, what’s the story behind these little fidget spinners? Among so many other options for entertainment today, why has it found such a compelling demand among young people? As we see the toy rapidly increase in use and demand, is there a possible spiritual lesson that we can spin from the gadget and the craze surrounding it?

The fidget spinner itself is actually a simple three-inch twirling device with three symmetric circles that quickly and simultaneously rotate in a harmonious way. People find themselves staring at them hypnotized before they even know they’re looking at them.

Honestly, the little thing is hard to ignore!

It’s being reported that toy stores can’t keep them on their shelves and online sales are through the roof. This is surprising since the toy was originally targeting children with attention deficit disorders and autism. It was not presented by any major marketing campaign and was not introduced around any well-timed holiday or seasonal release.

It just hit the market, accompanied by a few YouTube videos, and whirled its way into the hearts of young people throughout Western culture.

Of course, it’s finding widespread demand among adults as well. Many professional people are reporting that they find the gadget to be helpful in relieving stress and refocusing mental energies. With the toy’s appearance across generations and in diverse contexts, with minds reeling, is there an angle, slant, or twist that can be applied to the spiritual life?

Is there something deeper than can be drawn out from the mania and machinations of the fidget spinner?

While maybe stretching things at times, believers can (and should) find spiritual lessons in everything. As beings made of both bodies and souls, we’re able to find transcendence in everything, even the ordinary and sometimes mundane things of the world. And this baptism, or spiritualizing of the world around us can even be applied to a small gadget that we find consoling and helpful to our mental energies.

And so, what are some of the possible spiritual lessons of the fidget spinner? First and foremost, it reminds us of the need for mental rest. No one person’s mind can always be on the chopping block, always stretched, and always on demand. We need rest, or at least some stimulating distraction.

Another lesson of the fidget spinner is the need to disconnect and have some aspect of solitude. Most of us are perpetually checking email, receiving texts, posting or responding to social media, updating blogs, reviewing projects, following up on tasks, giving attention to loved ones, and so many other things that appropriately require our time and concentration.

And yet, if we’re not careful, any of us could lose ourselves in the tension and demands of life. Sometimes the internal spinning requires a break and somehow the twists of the fidget spinner reminds us of this very human need.

As for the believer, the fidget spinner can also be an odd but very real call to prayer. As the person sees the need for mental rest and solitude and finds a portion of these from a popular gadget, she can realize there are other broader and deeper resources for such renewal and rejuvenation. This could be a reminder and invitation to prayer.

In prayer, a person can find an oasis of both rest and encouragement. In prayer, we are welcomed to leave the things of this world, retreat, and be reinvigorated so that we do not become strangers to ourselves and can then later truly give of ourselves to others and the duties of our life.

And so, as the fidget spinner (and the world around it) spin and twist, faith and prayer can stand firm and help the person to find the mental rest and solitude they need and want.

These are the surprising lessons of the fidget spinner. And so, spin on… and say a prayer or two.