Saturday, June 19, 2010

To BV or not to BV?

That was the question haunting me over the past few days. Most of the week, I had an odd feeling about my upcoming Colorado trip. I was under the weather and definitely not feeling 100%. There were things I needed to finish before leaving . . . but hadn’t. And honestly, I was a little anxious about spending 6 days alone. So, I was thinking about cancelling. I went back and forth in my mind, arguing both sides. I told myself it was foolish to waste the money I had spent on airline tickets and the cabin reservation—so I should go. But then I worried about flying to Denver, driving to Buena Vista, and getting set up in the cabin, only to be miserable.

The day before I was scheduled to leave, I decided not to go. It was a lot of money to just throw away, but it felt like the right thing to do. Sitting at home that evening in the catcher’s mitt with my feet up, I felt relaxed, and confident I had made the right decision. I woke up early Friday morning, energized and ready to tackle a list of errands. But as the day wore on, a funny thing happened. All the ambivalence I had felt about my trip was gone, and I started thinking about the ever-present Mount Princeton and Bongo Billy’s and tackling Tin Cup Pass for the first time. But it was on the way to rendezvous with Allen before he left town that it got really weird.

I pulled up alongside a car and glanced at its license plate. Two pairs of letters jumped out at me: “BV” and “GO.” Now I know a lot of people (and some of them even reasonably intelligent) who would say that God made that happen so that I would know I was supposed to reschedule my flight and go ahead with my trip. And I have to admit, that thought flashed briefly through my mind before I rejected it as being incompatible with my theological views. Don’t get me wrong. I do believe God interacts with us somehow (I don’t pretend to understand how it works, but I’m writing a novel all about it, called God Explains It All), but manipulation of people and events at this level of specificity would make any notion of free will and moral responsibility utter nonsense. The statement, “God made A happen so that B would happen so that I would then do C,” is incompatible with what I have experienced of and believe about God.

So, how do I explain that license plate? I don’t. There are 26 letters in the English alphabet, and I saw 4 of them. What happened next was all a function of that amazing little fabricator of meaning residing inside my skull.

Did God give me a little internal “Holy Spirit” nudge, prompting me to look that way at just the right moment, knowing what the license plate said and guessing what I would do with it? You tell me.

The only definite comment I can make on the subject is to point out that I am in BV, sitting at Bongo Billy’s, reflecting on the unlikely chain of events that finally got me here.

Does Jesus give a rat’s ass that I’m here? I certainly hope so.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

God and the Internet (excerpt from God Explains It All)

How do you come up with this stuff? Do you Google everything I say?

Google? I don’t believe I’m familiar with that term. Is it anything like “ogle”?

You’re kidding, right? Google. The biggest search engine on the internet.

Internet. That’s the thing with computers, isn’t it?

Yes, the World Wide Web. The Information Superhighway. The Digital Revolution. Any of this sound familiar?

I don’t like to follow passing fads. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against innovation per se, but I’m not really what you would call an early adopter.

God as a Luddite. Should have seen that coming, I guess, what with the Tower of Babel and all.

Cocky upstarts! You should have seen their faces. It was priceless. Too bad you hadn’t invented your pocket translators yet.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Techno-Savvy Luddite

I think I may be neurotic. There’s a part of me that loves technology. I’m a classic early adopter, rushing out to buy the latest new electronic gadget as soon as it’s available—whether I need it or not. Cell phones have always been one of my weaknesses—though I did wait for the price drop before I bought an iPhone. Internet, directions, email, photos, weather, text messaging, calendar, and stock quotes on a phone that is also an iPod. It’s a great time to be alive!

But there’s another part of me that worries about the extent to which technology is taking over our lives. Take email for example. It’s a remarkable, time-saving communication tool, but increasingly it takes the place of face-to-face contact—like when I email the co-worker in the office next door rather than just getting up and taking a few steps. Taken too far, this pattern can eventually erode and depersonalize our relationships with others. Email lacks the heart and soul of real voices, gestures, seeing and hearing. And what is true of email is doubly true of texting—trebly of Twitter.

I have to pause for a moment here to answer two obvious and easily raised objections. Yes, I wrote this post on my Sony VAIO notebook computer (light years beyond my first computer—a “Trash 80” I bought in 1984) and uploaded it using my wireless router and broadband internet account. And yes, the whole concept of a blog is meaningless apart from the countless technological advances that make the modern web possible. So, I’m not a very good Luddite—inconsistent, selective, and self-indulgent. But my shortcomings don't automatically invalidate the questions I am raising.

And just so you'll know, I am certainly no Anarcho-primitivist. Even in my most naively nostalgic fantasies about eras I never experienced, I have no desire to part with modern creature comforts. Without modern medicine, I probably wouldn’t still be alive. And even if I were, without corrective eyewear, I would be so myopic as to be little more than a helpless burden on my tribe. Besides, no sane person who has ever benefitted from central air conditioning would want to give it up.

It isn’t technology per se that concerns me, but rather our uncritical adoption of technology in all its forms. Guided by the motto “If we can do it, then we must do it,” we seem hell-bent on selling our souls to technology without once looking back—without ever pausing to reflect on the consequences.

The original Luddites were English textile workers in the early nineteenth century. Following the example of their legendary leader, Captain Ludd, they smashed the framing machines that threatened their jobs. They were unable to halt the flood of mechanization in their time, most of which we now take for granted. Today, the “machines” are more pervasive, the flood of digitalization and virtualization is even more relentless, and the stakes are higher than ever before.

What if we are unknowingly losing something vital to our humanity by sitting for hours each day staring at screens and pecking at keys? Willingly giving it away as the price of admission into a fascinating, seductive, endless, but unreal world? If this is even a remote possibility, since we were created to be "human," I think Jesus would give a rat's ass about this.