So, if you have been following this blog and aren’t under 35 and born with a keyboard in one hand and a smartphone in the other, some of what I have posted – and will post – might be making you anxious.
One of my anxieties as I have been talking this Digital/Spiritual Literacy course, has been how attractive it all is. We’ve been learning a lot, trying a lot, acquiring new technological skills and debating change, strategy and philosophy of church on the fly.
For example: info management. People of my background tend to organize computers like filing cabinets. We retrieve info by looking for a certain file and then for a certain document in that file. What student colleagues have shown me (and the teacher too) is that there is a radically different way used easily by the ‘digital natives. Instead of orderly files they… (inaccurate visual metaphor coming) pile every piece of information on the floor – marking or ‘tagging’ words and ideas here and there- and then send digital bloodhounds after those tagged items. Instead of retreiving the one specific reference I sought, they pull out a string of things all relating to the topic in question -say spirituality- and they use the reading, or argument or definition or picture or song or video clip they want. And there are even engines that don’t even need to have these things pre-tagged. They just FIND them in the text!
HOLY …um… MACKERAL!!! No wonder the average 12 year old can find things so much faster than I!
Witnessing this and even learning a little about how to do it is enlightening to say the least. It is tempting to say, “This is it, the way of the future.” Church will soon be all virtual groups and info sharing and video clips and song shares. Wow!
To be sure this will be part of the future, however ‘church’ emerges from the Digital Reformation. But, then the little voice in the back of my head calls out “Bright, shiny things, Brian! Careful!”
What do I mean? Magpies love bright, shiny things, those great and multiple things that can blind us to deeper gifts, meaningful connections and the learning that comes from silence. I’m not diminishing this new, great stuff. But I have a gut feeling that some of the things from the traditional way of doing religion will still have value for older and younger generations alike.
In Care of the Soul, years ago, Thomas Moore worried that North Americans spend too much time chasing the Spirit, which is positive, life-affirming, seeking the light and heat. There is nothing wrong with the Spirit, but alone, it is untethered, floating free. The Spirit, according to Moore, must be balanced by Soul.
Soul lives in the rich darkness. We need sleep and rest. We need downtime and reflection. We need time to grieve and let go of things. We need the winter of soul time as much as the summer of Spirit time. There must be balance.
A church member (and a fellow foodie) responding to this blog spoke about people who will still need Slow Church. You know, like Slow Food is responding to Fast Food.
None of this is meant as an insult to the changes coming as a generation matures that was nurtured in the wired age. There are many really hopeful things in the air: freer discussion, fewer boundaries, greater access and people finding new wonderful ways of connection. I love the possibilities I am discovering.
But my concerned congregant also reminds me that history shows that while revolution can change things dramatically, we have to be careful to preserve what was already good.
In the NY Times, Pico Ayer wrote a great column reflecting on the post-internet shift (I know, I know, post Internet???) He called it the Joy of Quiet. I commend it to you for futher contemplation.
What do you think? Am I on track or off base with your view and experience?