Tasting Life Twice

Archive for the category “Technology and Culture”

The Transatlantic Blog Post

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The Ring of Kerry coastal road to Valentia Island, one of the most western points in Europe, 1900 ocean miles away from the United States.

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From Valentia Island

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Here in Knights Town, they got in early on international communication, on the ground floor, so to speak.  It was here, in the 1850s and 60s, where they first laid the Transatlantic Cable, stretching across the ocean floor to eastern Newfoundland.  In recent decades, a local went trawling out to sea and pulled up pieces of it, selling it to treasure-hunters and memory-keepers, making a little money here and there.  You can see it a portion of it on the wall of the room where I sit.  Think I’ll save some of my ethernet cables for my great-great grandkids.  Despite the great work on sending telegraphs, though, they’re still a little behind on wireless internet.

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The Reverent Savage

https://i0.wp.com/www.thehollywoodnews.com/artman2/uploads/1/mark-twain.jpgAs a long time aficionado of all things having to do with Mark Twain, and in recognition that we are nearing the centennial of his death (April 21, 2010), I am going to start posting some of my favorite Twain observations and witticisms. As a child growing up Hannibal, MO, I was immersed in the stories and characters that Twain brought to life.  As an adult, he continues to be a conversation partner across a broad range of topics. 

“We have not the reverent feeling for the rainbow that a savage has, because we know how it was made.  We have lost as much as we have gained by prying into that matter.” A Tramp Abroad

The Magic of the Moon

image On the anniversary of one of history’s great milestone, here are a few of my favorite quotes from the documentary, In the Shadow of the Moon (2007).  The one describes how much how world has changed in so short a time, as Charlie Duke observes:

My father was born shortly after the Wright Brothers. He could barely believe that I went to the Moon. But my son, Tom, was five. And he didn’t think it was any big deal.

The other describes how that transcendent moment brought about a sense of humiliation, echoing the wisdom of Psalm 8. 

Jim Lovell recalls:

We learned a lot about the Moon, but what we really learned was about the Earth. The fact that just from the distance of the Moon, you can put your thumb up, and you can hide the Earth behind your thumb. Everything that you have ever known, your loved ones, your business, the problems of the Earth itself, all behind your thumb. And how insignificant we really all are. But then how fortunate we are to have this body, and to be able to enjoy living here amongst the beauty of the Earth itself.

Reading Books in the Age of the Internet

image This summer I’ve been reading up on how new technologies are changing the way we learn and live.  I’ve been weighing the different viewpoints, from critics who warn of how these new technologies are diminishing certain important capacities (higher order thinking, sustained concentration, social skills, etc.) to those who are more favorable to the sweeping changes and the new opportunities.  Here are a few notes from Grown Up Digital:  How the Net Generation is Changing Your World by Don Tapscott:

Regarding how we access information, Tapscott says:

The boomers typically go from beginning to end – whether it’s writing an essay, watching The Ed Sullivan Show, or reading the instructions before working the remote control. That’s how boomers, who were raised before Web sites, learned to absorb information. The Net Gener doesn’t operate in this sequential way. Using tools like keywords in Google, hypertext, and ‘clicking, cutting, and pasting,’ today’s young person can search for and organize information containing links to other information. William Winn, director of the Learning Center at the University of Washington, put it this way, children ‘think differently from the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It’s as though their cognitive structures were parallel, not sequential.’ This is one way that digital immersion has literally rewired brains under 40, Marc Prensky argues in his book Digital Game-Based Learning. (105)

Net Geners who have grown up digital have learned how to read images, like pictures, graphs, and icons. They may be more visual than their parents are. (106)

As boomers, we spent a lot of time hunting for information. We couldn’t always find it – maybe the library was closed on the night we had to finish that essay – so we grew up with a lot less information at hand than the Net Generation has. It made life easier in some ways. It’s easier to jump to a conclusion when you don’t have a lot of information to analyze. The Net Generation has the opposite problem – an avalanche of information coming from an astounding diversity of sources. This presents a real intellectual challenge. (113)

The Loss of Simple Pleasures

“Our perception of time is subject to technological revision, and increased speed  has generally translated into a subtle diminishment of our capacity to appreciate our immediate surroundings. In his 1849 essay “The English Mail-Coach”, Thomas De Quincey noted that while the new, high-speed coaches of his day offered much faster travel than has been troseshought possible for a few years before, they also distanced passengers from the countryside. The simple pleasures available to the stroller or the wanderer or horseback – the scene of wild roses, a glimpse of a fox with her kits, an exchange of greetings with other travelers or with people resting from their labors in a field of sweet-smelling, new mown hay – had been traded for increased efficiency. In our own time Wendell Berry has written eloquently of pulling off the high-speed world of an American interstate highway into an Applachian campground, and needing more than an hour to slow down and adjust to the rhythms of his own body and the world close at hand.”

Kathleen Norris, Acedia and Me

Storytelling on the Beach

My assignment this week is six talks at a  youth conference in Florida on What Would Jesus Twitter?  Finding Real Life in the Virtually Real World

How do we connect with God in an age that is hyperlinked to everything? How do we follow the way of Jesus in the world of MySpace, YouTube and Twitter? Where do we find the kind of fulfillment that is more than just one more Google search word? What is the “good life” in a world of more and more consumer goods? How can we integrate our lives in a fragmented world? What does it mean to be fully human, gloriously alive, in a world of avatars, vanity pages and second-life personas? How do we love God and love our neighbor when we have five hundred Facebook friends?

Using the Bible as our “cheat code”, we’ll try to hack our way through some of these questions as we seek to discover life at its best. While centering our search in the stories and wisdom sayings of Jesus, we’ll also dabble in the stories that come to us in song and poetry and film and art. 

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All Jesus did that day was tell stories—a long storytelling afternoon. His storytelling fulfilled the prophecy:

I will open my mouth and tell stories;
I will bring out into the open
things hidden since the world’s first day.
(Matthew 13:34, The Message)

Praying the Serenity Prayer in an Innovative Age

Recently, I have been chatting with friends about how today’s technologies are affecting the way we live. As an example, given that we live in an age of constant innovation, we have a heightened expectation that our lives will improve in the near future. More and more of life is malleable, subject to change and manipulation. What that means, however, is that it may be harder for us than ever before to learn contentment as a spiritual virtue, when such a lesson is necessary. Consider the famous serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Because we have the ability to customize our lives, making more and more choices about what we want to do and who we want to be, is it harder for us to pray the first of these petitions, acknowledging there are things that cannot be changed and for which, I must ask God for serenity? 

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