A lot of my reading for this week’s sermon has been focused on Sabbath—how to keep it, why it ought to be kept, what prevents us from keeping it, etc. Whatever else a consistent and deliberate observation of Sabbath might protect us from, I think that our societal addiction/enslavement to technology would be high on the list. A couple of articles I’ve come across over the last few days from the New York Times’s “Your Brain on Computers” series (see here and here, for example) have simply reinforced my sense that one of the things that the inhabitant of twenty-first century postmodernity is most desperately in need of is unplugging.
Quentin Schultze is a writer who I think understands the worldview implications of our technological habits very well. The following addresses what he calls “informationism” and is taken from his Habits of the High-Tech Heart:
We are succumbing to informationism: a non-discerning, vacuous faith in the collection and dissemination of information as a route to social progress and personal happiness…
The glut of information at our disposal creates the illusion that we understand our predicament. We become promiscuous knowers, flitting from one bit of information to another, with no fidelity to an overarching worldview… We become informational voyeurs of life rather than responsible participants in the knowing of our own cultures and communities. “Surfing” is an apt word for our condition because it connotes living on the surface of reality.
That is me. Also most other people I know, but I know myself best, and that is me.
It’s me too, Michael. Oh, is it ever…
Re: Sabbath—how to keep it, why it ought to be kept.
Last night, continuing my meditation on Exodus 34, I read on into Exodus 35, and when I read verse 2 I remembered your posting. Will you be mentioning Numbers 15:32-36 by chance?
Is using a computer the same as gathering sticks? Or is it worse?
I have been thinking about getting an Ipod Touch and keeping my computer turned off most of the time, thinking that it may be a way to stay connected with emails, blogs, weather, maps, news and documents while allowing more freedom of movement and freedom from the computer.
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t planning on using the Numbers passage :). Whatever one might make of that passage, I think the important question has less to do with what kind of activity is better or worse than it does with what said behaviour does to us as people.
I’ve had people tell me that I “need” an iPhone. So far, I’m resisting. I don’t think I need one more device to be distracting me. I’m having enough problems with the devices I have.
I-Phones are nice. I think if I were in ministry, for the sake of maintaining the peace of mind and sanity associated with boundaries, I would not want a cell phone.
Interesting I had a friend from seminary here a couple of weeks ago and we were hiking the coast trail in East Sooke Park. And we were taking about creating space in our lives for God. Because of technology…text messaging, social media, twitter, FB, myspace…
Our lives at best are a constant bombardment of distraction, our lives our relationships whether with friends or God are becoming increasingly fragmented. My 23 year old daughter on a recent ferry trip responded to 30+ text messages. Or, having coffee with someone, a face to face conversation and they interupt the conversation mid-sentence to respond to text message. The question becomes how present are we to one another, or God. Technology is good…but there is a danger it is disconnecting us more than it is connecting us.
Needless to say, a sabbath day is very important to my faith…its a day I try to get away into God’s creation, turn everything off…and tune in God.
I think increasingly creating the kind of space you’re talking about is going to have to be a very conscious and deliberate choice. Too many of us default into patterns and habits of technology-use that aren’t healthy and close off the space to listen that we need. It’s hard to unlearn bad habits, but it’s something we (I!) need to do. I think that one of the most important gifts we can give people in our technologically-saturated world is, as you say, the gift of our uninterrupted— i.e., making the decision to turn the phones off during coffee!—presence.