Over the next several posts I want to examine the life of the mind and look at the ways that our head and heart work together…or don’t. Today I’ll examine the “instant mind”.
THE INSTANT MIND (Part I)
I’m thirty-three years old. My first gaming system was a commodore vic 20. I don’t think we called it a gaming system back than. I believe I was in the fourth grade when my parents gave me a commodore 64 for Christmas. It was the best Christmas gift ever. I can still remember the code that you had to use to load the games (shift 242,8,1). When I was first married my wife and I had dial-up internet. If you’re ever having a lull in conversation at your dinner party, just use the words “dial-up” and you will be sure to bring that party back to life with roaring laughter. How the times have changed. On more than one occasion I have been working (at a church!) when the internet was down and almost everyone left the office to go home or chose to work at a local cafe with wifi because God knows that we can’t do His work without the internet. We complain when a page takes longer than seven seconds to load. How dare you internet! Anyway, it seems that in my thirty-three years here on earth things have sped up enormously. I’m thankful for this is many regards. Who knows what town I’d be lost in this very moment if it weren’t for my GPS on my phone. But, I would like to look at one (of the many) disadvantages that our technological advances has brought.
In his book “The Narnian”, Alan Jacobs says that C. S. “Lewis was not…convinced that technological changes should regularly earn the label of “progress” – he thought that buttons served far better than zippers to keep the fly of his trousers closed, and he dipped a pen in an inkwell to the end of his days – and was thoroughly skeptical of any claim that we morally exceed our ancestors”.
Should all of the advances that we have made technologically be considered progress? I don’t think so. One of the downsides of technology, I would argue, has been in the speed with which we think and communicate.
Saying “the speed with which we think” at first glance doesn’t seem to be a problem. People like Chesterton and Churchill were praised for their quick wit, and surely they had tremendous minds. But the kind of speed that I am talking about does not seem to be producing genius. It seems, rather, to be producing mis-information and bad ethics. There are at least two ways in which I believe it would be helpful for us to process things slowly. This post deals with the first:
With “the world at our fingertips” we can google any topic we want. This has influenced what people believe to be true. I have recently seen several conversations on Facebook condemning certain Christian leaders based on “facts” that people have collected online. They found this interesting information from sources as reliable as Wikipedia. Every person who commented on Facebook was bashing the leader based on misinformation that they found online. It is, of course, really easy to “re-tweet” something or post it on your wall without first checking out the validity of the source. Recently I retweeted some stats that someone had posted on twitter. It wasn’t up for too long before someone responded that they would LOVE to know where I got those stats from. From the tone of the response, I knew they didn’t buy the information that I had retweeted. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the stats before I retweeted them. Fortunately, when I did check the stats they were correct. Lucky me.
In a world of instant information, we must remember that not all information is true. We also need to remember that mis-information can hurt people. Here are a few questions that can help us slow down and process information:
-Do I know the source of this information?
-Do I trust the source of this information?
-What is the context of this information?
-If the information is about a person: Has the person whom this information is about posted a personal response?
-(If the information is about a topic) Who are the leading voices on this issue? Is there more than one opinion amongst the leading voices? It is quite possible that if you are really interested in what is being said, your research will lead you beyond the internet to books, articles, lectures, etc.
Finally, I think it is important to ask ourselves – why is this information so important to me? Am I genuinely concerned about this person, this issue, etc? If so, our research should be begin and end in prayer. Otherwise we are simply gathering information because our “inquiring minds want to know”.
Perhaps part of what it means to love God with our minds is to slow down and really seek out the truth. Perhaps it also means not being addicted to information. As followers of Christ we listen/read/research not primarily to be informed, but to formed.