Something that’s fascinated me a lot in my explorations lately is the idea of a theology of technology. There’s been great stuff written about this subject… sort of Lewis‘ idea that we shouldn’t necessarily do something just because we can do it. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m far too much of a gadget lover to have an easy time with the idea of giving up my toys. With those toys, however, I think comes a certain illusion…a mistaken perception of how the world beyond our living room walls actually functions…if we use the web that our toys access as primary social contact instead of a tool to augment real social contact.
I listened to a discussion last week about another interesting topic: a theology of food. The panel discussed how America, unlike most other cultures around our world, has little to no connection to its food source. Food thus becomes utilitarian for us, one more thing that we consume with no respect. Similar to the way we consume art as mere entertainment instead of engaging with a medium, we eat because we’re hungry, with no appreciation for quality or new ideas, consuming processed garbage and forgetting what a carefully prepared meal tastes like.
It occurs to me that the two actually go together. One of the panelists in the discussion on food mentioned that he and his wife have a garden at their home. My family has always raised a portion of their own food, and still do. I’m really the first urban dweller in my family, the first to not do this. Karen and I are very accustomed to being able to run across the street to the grocery store and pick up what we need when we need it. Waiting is a foreign concept. I am friends with a local coffee shop owner who used to custom roast my coffee to order. I had to stop having him do so, and begin buying what he had already roasted and placed on his shelf, because I could not remember to order my coffee two days out. I ran out in the morning, and needed more by that afternoon. I have way too much happening in life to plan my coffee ordering.
The panelist who plants a garden said that doing so is a spiritual experience, because it accustoms you to waiting on something…to not having control over when something you’ve planted is ready to eat, but instead having to wait for it to come into its season of harvest. This creates a greater appreciation for the food once it is ready, leading one to eat and appreciate it instead of consuming it like a tool for life. In short, you respect that for which you’ve had to wait.
I can think of few aspects of my life that technology doesn’t permit me to conquer and to make happen on my schedule. I watch movies and television on my own schedule, not when they air. I will have two packages of books arriving this week that I have ordered online. I am listening to electronica music on my iPod as I type this. I imagine that all of us have flown to a part of the world that might have been completely inaccessible to us a century ago. In almost every area of life, I see this as progress, as our mastery over our environment. Yet, I wonder what we fail to appreciate because we have everything happening at our own schedule? I wonder what we have mastered that perhaps we shouldn’t have? I wonder how our domination of our world is causing that world to be cheapened in our own perspectives?
I’m not an organic person. I’m an urban-dweller who does absolutely everything possible online and am the person to whom most of my friends turn for “tech support.” I don’t like hiking, and I’m allergic to grass. I don’t advocate purging ourselves of our technological advances.
I just sometimes wish we could balance our advances with a bit more efficacy to the rest of life.
Photo Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewchoy/