Last month my daughter Maria, her husband, Joe, and their two-year-old daughter, Grace, came into town from Chicago to stay at our home for a weekend. On Sunday morning, while I was in the bathroom getting ready for church, I had my iPad tuned in to iHeartRadio.com. With iHeartRadio, I’m able to play music from different “oldies” radio stations located throughout the United States.
At one point, I grabbed my iPad out of the docking station on the bathroom countertop and carried it through the house with the music still playing. When I walked from my bedroom into the living room (on my way to the kitchen), Joe asked, “You listen to rock and roll music while you’re getting ready for Mass?” I held up my iPad and responded, “Right on!” and continued to walk toward the kitchen.
When I got into the kitchen, I turned off my iPad and put it into a carrying case with some other materials that I was going to take with me to the Adoration Chapel after Mass. I have some spiritual books downloaded on my iPad, and I sometimes refer to them while I’m in the chapel.
After I put my iPad in the carrying case, I walked back into my bedroom. My granddaughter followed me and asked, “Where’s your wock and woll?” (She’s still working on perfecting her r’s.) I looked at her and realized she was talking about my iPad. When her dad had asked me about listening to rock and roll music, Grace had been sitting on his lap so he could put on her shoes.
When she’d heard her dad ask the question, Grace had associated the words “rock and roll” with the iPad. She had no way of knowing her dad was talking about the music that was playing on the iPad. She assumed the name of the iPad itself was “rock and roll.”
Like all two-year-olds, Grace was in the red zone of awareness at the time her dad asked me about the music. The term “red zone” is representative of a heightened state of awareness in which an individual automatically picks up everything that’s going on around him. Everything the individual sees and hears is registered in his brain and, if necessary, he can repeat back to you everything that has been said and done.
The term “red zone” comes from a color coding system that is used by the United States Special Operations Forces, which includes the Navy SEALS. The color coding system describes four stages of awareness:
1. White zone – a state of total unawareness or what is commonly referred to as a “zombie state.” A person in the white zone lives his life in a daze and is normally unaware of what’s going on around him.
2. Yellow zone – a state of general awareness of a person’s surroundings and conditions. A person in the yellow zone can tell you where he is and, in general terms, what’s going on around him.
3. Red zone – a heightened state of awareness in which a person is trained to consciously be aware of everybody and everything around him. He constantly watches for and listens to changes in his environment. He always knows what’s behind him, to the side of him, and ahead of him. He is able to recognize and take note of the moods, traits, and mannerisms of people he encounters. He has the ability to see several things at once. He’s like the guy you would see in an action movie – say, James Bond or Jason Bourne – who notices and remembers everyone and everything.
4. Black zone – a combat-ready state of awareness in which a person realizes he’s in a hostile environment and proceeds to kill anything that moves.
The Navy SEALS are trained to always be in the red zone when they are on a mission. They must be ready at all times to, when necessary, instantly switch from the red zone to the black zone.
Most parents don’t realize it, but children are born in the red zone. They see, hear, and absorb everything that goes on around them. I always cringe when I hear a parent talk negatively about a child while the child is within hearing range. The parent doesn’t realize it, but the child is listening and registering everything the parent is saying. The child is also observing the facial expressions and body language of the parent, which are being registered in the child’s subconscious.
As children grow older, they begin to lose that heightened state of awareness and eventually they move from the red zone into the yellow zone. Later in life, it’s common for a person to alternate between the yellow and the white zones.
We were created to live our lives in the red zone of awareness – to always see, experience, and appreciate the fullness of God’s creation. Jesus lived his entire life in the red zone. There is a way in which we, as adults, can return to the red zone of awareness: by pursuing perfection in the eyes of God.
Is perfection on earth possible? According to some of the saints, it is. In fact, in St. Teresa of Avila’s book The Way of Perfection, she explains how a person can reach perfection.
Something to think about during the month of November, when we celebrate the lives of all the saints in heaven.