Technology Ahead: Proceeding with Caution

I hope my last post was helpful in drawing your attention to some possible problems when dealing with technology. I did not want to believe it myself at first, but there is an intimate bond between my attitude toward a screen and my attitude toward the things of faith. Habits found in one place often leak into others, especially something as pervasive and widely used as the computer, television, and cell phone.

Though many more pitfalls could be listed, I highlighted three observations I’ve made of my own relationship with my electronic gadgets. Media has the ability to shape how we receive and think about information. In turn I mentioned the following things – media has the propensity to: destroy conviction, harden the heart, and give unrealistic expectations of sanctification.

I have thought rather hard about how to deal with these concerns. Is it possible to reverse daily habits formed over the last decade? I hope so! If there is one thing I’ve learned about myself, I have learned that I need a very clear and direct plan of attack to combat things. If I do not have that, things are reduced to idealistic thoughts that have no chance of bearing fruit. Here are some remedies I have thought of to address each problem.

Concern: Media has the propensity to destroy conviction.
Remedy: Reduce the possibility of distractions, increase the possibility for contemplative thought.

I am not sure this is the only or best way to increase my ability toward serious meditation, but it sounds promising in theory. I will say this first, that I have learned that most serious contemplation in my life happens when I set aside a block of time to write, or at least think. That is why I am thankful for blogging as an outlet for my jumbled thoughts. Often times when preparing for a sermon, I take a pad of paper and my Bible outside and mull over concepts, trying to synthesize for the sake of clarity. I realized my soul needs more opportunities to think, not just for the sake of delivery, but for conviction to be wrought in my life.

Therefore my conclusion is simple, and somewhat radical. My aim when I return to Irvine, is to create an internet-free home for myself. Now I am not so selfish to deprive my roommates, so hopefully I can just be ignorant of the password. This is a good compromise for me. I am not hating on the internet because I think it has a tremendous capacity to produce good (or bad), but rather giving opportunity for prayer and productivity to abound. I know that too much of life, including school work, requires the internet thus the necessary clause “internet-free” home.

Basically, when I am on campus, I can use the internet to do whatever I want – study, play, YouTube, fantasy basketball, you name it. However when I am at home I will be compelled to concentrate deeply on schoolwork, or perhaps a book or prayer. Maybe I will have more time to cook and be able to sleep earlier. Plus, I will have my (dumb) phone so I won’t have unlimited internet. It is tough to imagine a scenario when I would so desperately need the internet in my immediate context and not have the patience to walk to a local Wi-Fi connection or to the school library. If things get so crazy I can use my Kindle 3g as an emergency, but surfing on that is a rather atrocious experience.

If I find myself to be incredibly bored in the evening or on a lazy Saturday that should serve as an indictment toward my soul. Soul! Are you saying there is nothing better to do than watch television or check basketball scores? Why not try cooking a new dish or hone a skill? Is there not things to be prayed over or truth to behold? Is there not a church body to strengthen or a risen Christ to worship? May it never be so!

Hopefully this experiment will not be a total fail. Radical change in habit formed by technology must be met by bold measures to restore a sense of meditation and contemplation. I’m just hoping this is a practical enough measure. Much thanks to Jay Lee and his blog for inspiring this project!

Concern: Media has the propensity to harden the heart.
Remedy: Reduce the vast channels of information intake and think deeply on a few, if not a single, thing at a time – essentially, to begin cultivating a spirit that values particular information. Also, write more, preferably on the few things being considered at that particular moment.

This goal is a bit more vague than the last, but certainly crosses path with the distraction free environment. I mentioned in a previous post that I often free too spread out over too much information. This would include sermons on Wednesday/Friday/Sunday, primary reading for self, secondary reading for self, and blogs.  There is no way the preaching of God’s Word will be eliminated which leaves primary and secondary reading along with blogs to go out.

Because the internet will be gone, blogs most likely will also exit. A quick note on blogs: I used to be a huge blog junkie … but I have come to realize some things, at least for myself. My experience is not definitive, so please do not take offense. I still am subscribed to a couple of blogs, though I only check … maybe two to three sites of people I do not personally know. Here are some thoughts!

  1. Blogs are more about interesting information than soul-stirring reformation. Something may sound good, perhaps so good that it deserves to be ‘reblogged’ or ‘reposted.’ Rarely does a blog post provoke me onto my knees. It becomes a bunch of information and quotes I quickly scroll through.
  2. Blog entries are, for the most part, not memorable. The exception being blogs written by friends … and I praise God for my WordPress friends (Tumblr is more like a colossal twitter) who write soul-stirring discourses. Because they are my real life friends, their entries stick a lot more.
  3. Blogs seem to embody the culture of the day, where our thinking is two inches deep but a mile wide. Though they have been useful to me in the past, real books have served my soul much better than a short entry, even if it is from a heavy-weight pastor like John Piper. Why settle for morsels when a feast is offered you?
So for this, I thought about employing a tip often given at seminaries … I think John Piper mentioned it in his book “God’s Passion for His Glory.” Basically he was told that it would be helpful to pick one theologian and to immerse himself in his work. While I do not plan on diving into someone like JP dived into Jonathan Edwards, I am considering picking an author to spend a season in. Top candidates include John Flavel and Thomas Brooks. Hopefully this will instill some kind of deeper thinking on a select level.
On a random note, this is probably the most appropriate time to say … that I bought a Kindle! Now many of you are going to say, “Da heck? Don’t you already have an iPad?” Yes, that is true and I still love it … and the reason I love it is also the reason I bought a Kindle. I initially bought my iPad to serve as a glorified reader, and it has served that purpose well. It surfs and plays games well; it even serves me well in my secular and personal study. I loved that it could do multiple things. Well, the purpose of this point is to refine the ability to concentrate deeply, which means that the iPad does too many things well – a one dimensional device is needed. Needless to say, I am deeply impressed with the Kindle as a reader and I see it being used very well in an internet free environment. The iPad will serve me well on campus and for studying, but the Kindle will be much better for personal study.

Another thing that will help hone my affections is writing. I am still not sure if I am inclined to write by hand or by keyboard, but I know that it is helpful for examining my heart and doing away with sin. Hopefully the concentration free environment is better conducive to thinking clearly and writing well.

Concern: Media has the propensity to give us unrealistic expectations of sanctification.
Remedy: Try growing a plant.

Wow, that was pretty simple. I remember being thunderstruck by how Mahaney drew such a drastic line between a culture of technology and a culture of … agriculture thus the clear application.

First off, I imagine this is a lot harder and requires a lot more patience than I think, but that is the whole point of the test! What kind of patience does it take to bear fruit? I imagine I will have all kinds of things to write about as I rejoice over the tiniest sprout when my mind has been trained to expect Jack’s giant bean stalk overnight. If I am going to begin to understand that sanctification is more about daily faithfulness than dramatic changes (i.e. a conference, retreat), then I think this botany business will do me some good.

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Well there you have it! I hope those of you who read this and know me personally will keep me accountable. Ask me how I’m doing … because I am prone to wander, even in my goals.

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