“Professing themselves wise, they became fools…”

June 6, 2013

Time was when faith, ideas and the arts had a huge bearing in determining culture.  Today, technology has dramatically taken on this role.  Alas, our toys appear to have fundamentally usurped our traditions.

Normally, barging into a conversation would be seen as incredibly rude.  Yet, we allow cell-phones to effect this interruption all the time.  With an almost obsessive need to be “connected”, we don’t mind immediately severing a close and personal conversation at the drop of a hat.

Incredibly small and apparently innocuous, almost every device produced today is capable of recording images and video, some of which have led to great embarrassment, world-wide humiliation, and even jail time for those uncaringly oblivious to the health and wellbeing of those around them.  Yet, from discarded tablets to broken iPads, upgraded iPhones, memory cards corrupted, PC’s tossed, or crashing hard-drives replaced, while we are easily the most recorded generation of all time, we may also wind up as the least remembered.  We have tremendous power of expression, and precious little permanence — apart from Google and YouTube.

Years ago, a friend pulled out a shoebox full of hand-written letters from a Confederate prison camp during the Civil War.  In stark contrast with Instant Messenger, these evocative and immensely informative missives will be easily readable, without any required interface, 100+ years from now, while moving, though unprinted, emails will have been casually deleted or irretrievably lost.

Our blood and treasure have been sacrificed to establish freedom manifest in things like the right to privacy.  Yet precious few of our daily activities occur beyond the scope of a nearby lens, with captures blithely posted without permission on facebook®, including all manner of personal trivia and behavior we used to believe was no one else’s business.

Indeed, if you think that any gathering you or your children are a part of does not potentially offer complete access to the wider public, think again.

Considering the state of modern journalism, increasingly devoid of print media, but viewable to a global audience, one sees a dramatic increase in totally unedited opinion broadcast as fact.  Added to this is the phenomena of completely boorish vitriol, incomprehensible a decade ago, but commonplace today, as thoughtful and articulate comment too often gives way to drive-by insults.  “Twitterized” vernacular has supplanted eloquent prose.  We text, but we do not talk; we frequent chat-rooms with total strangers, easily forgoing intimacy with friends.

Personally, much as I like bells and whistles, I believe our moral capacity has not kept pace with our technological power, and we are adrift in a sea that everyone feels, but very few understand.  We need not be paranoid, but we do need to be equipped, for the tiny devices carried in pocket and purse are having an enormous impact on our daily lives.  They are wonderful in affording us instant access around the planet.  But, in some ways, they have left us with an easily observable, culturally endemic disconnect with those across a table.

Hopefully, increased experience will engender cogent response, not just for parents, but for all participants in our “brave new world”.  Yet, as much as kids know how to access menus and push the right buttons, they truly need to be taught how to protect their own personhood, appreciating the elusive gifts of anonymity, confidentiality and uninterrupted intimacy, encountering life and love one person at a time.

Traditionally, summer has been a season of recreation.  It is a time perchance to revision ourselves, apart from the things we make, more akin to the will of God, the One Who made us.  For Christians, in communion with each other, intentional re-creation is no longer a luxury.  It is something crucial, and it is long overdue.