Tuesday, April 3, 2012


I preached a sermon yesterday on the crowds of the Palm Sunday story in Mark 11. I talked about how the gospel writers tell us that Jesus looked on the crowds with compassion, and how we are called to see the crowds through Jesus’ eyes (Phil 2 etc). I suppose it is not unnatural on the day after to be thinking about additional thoughts I could have shared, like how John Donne’s Meditation 17 paints us all as one giant interconnected crowd. With the prevalence of electronic connectivity options these days, it’s much easier to feel connected to the rest of the world. We can follow Facebook posts or tweets from friends across the country, and see live video of “breaking news” around the world or even just watch the lack of news through a myriad of strategically placed webcams. We carry cell phones in our pockets throughout the day and take them everywhere. We text at the most random of moments and for the most random of thoughts or events. And yet we can still walk through Walmart or drive down the freeway as if there isn’t another person on the planet. We have an incredible ability to filter out everything but that on which we choose to focus in a given moment. I suppose that’s a good thing in one respect—we’d go insane if we couldn’t filter, and indeed that’s one of the issues that plaques those with some forms of autism. In fact, a Google search on the phrase “inability to filter out irrelevant stimuli” brings up a list of articles on autism, schizophrenia, anorexia, and ADD, just to name a few. But I don’t think that people are “irrelevant stimuli,” although I know some of you might be inclined to argue otherwise. And if we are all indeed interconnected…which might also be arguable, but I think it’s pretty easily provable, so let’s just go with that as a given for now…then how much different might the world be if we actually walked through the day without ignoring most of the people around us? Taken to the extreme, this would be problematic, as Bruce discovered when God gave him a glimpse of omniscience (Bruce Almighty 2003). Considering how far most of us are from having this problem, I think it’s safe to suggest that increased awareness is something we could all stand to work on. I don’t think we’re in any danger of ending up like the Borg. My father has long argued that the increase in reliance on digital means of communication is contributing to the demise of our ability to have meaningful, direct, personal communication. Since he is my father, I think I am required to disagree about these sorts of things, and for a long time I did, but I’m starting to think he might be right. I myself am remarkably disinclined to use the telephone to contact anyone. I thought it was just me, but the other day my son demonstrated a similar disinclination about contacting friends to make arrangements. He used texts, Facebook, and instant messaging, and even when those failed he didn’t resort to old-fashioned voice communication. How easy it would be to live in total isolation and still feel connected because of all the ways we have to send and receive information. Although there was a time when I would have called that heaven, I’m afraid I’d have to give that a much more negative but ultimately more realistic label—selfishness.

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