When we see how our values and norms have changed just through recent advances in technology, it should be self-evident that there are serious implications of the medium in our day to day lives. Heck, I almost bump into someone everyday who can't look up from their phone while they're walking. And every so often, I'm the schmuck.
So if the medium has such a strong influence, why should this be any different for persons? I was recently listening to the On Being podcast, where David Brooks makes this astute observation...
I was once writing in a newspaper column. I was griping about how hard it was to get people to be good by my lectures to them in my classroom, and I got an email from a guy named Dave Jolly who is a veterinarian in Oregon. He said, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives. What gets communicated is the small gestures and the whole totality of their being, that is to say the small gestures of kindness, of grace, of honesty, of hard truth-telling.” And then he says, “Never forget the message is the person.” And those words rang in — because we deal in the words all the time, but those sentences, “What a wise person says is the least of that which he gives,” and, “The message is the person,” struck me as profoundly true.We seem to forget this, and place too much focus on the words that inspire us. When true inspiration comes from the people we meet in our lives that exemplify a way of being.
Maybe our utilitarian-focused culture doesn't have the moral language to articulate this or often lacks the subtlety to truly see it. But when I come across such a person, it's all there in its preciousness.
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On another note, it's so nice when I can keep a thread going around a particular idea. In fact, I believe this whole blog is one huge thread around an idea that isn't very particular at all. It all depends how you view it, but there is always some underlying coherence that I'm aiming at.
So we took on the atheists in a recent blog, and that was fun enough that I'd like to do it some more. What spurred me on is this fantastic post by Matthew Becklo on Why Does the World Exist? Becklo riffs off Jim Holt's book with the same name, and summarizes the metaphysical speculations from many academic thought leaders as to why us instead of no-thing.
Since most of these folks interviewed are clearly atheists/agnostics, none of them point to Spirit for the answer while at the same time giving some fairly unverifiable theories. The only exception is author John Updike, who takes a leap a faith that God made the world in play. Updike was probably Holt's attempt to get away from the academy to find an answer that was more fully human. Sadly, Updike died the following year.
In the end, Holt receives no satisfying answer to his existential quest. It is only when he receives news of his mother's death in the middle of writing his book that he brought back to the humanity and humility of it all.
In Blecko's review of this, he takes it a step further and mentions that Jean-Luc Marion, Director of Philosophy at Sorbonne, should have also been interviewed. Marion has done extensive work on how first philosophy should come from phenomenology, or the appearance of things, rather than metaphysics. His work builds on this notion of giveness: in what shows itself first, gives itself. (Coincidentally, I am currently reading a book by Marion, along with a friend and philosopher-in-training, so I am planning to blog more about Marion down the road.)
Blecko soulfully notes that, “As Marion argues, and as Holt's own account of his mother's death reveals, the knowledge of love—an image of the same love "that moves the sun and other stars"—must finally go beyond what analytic knowledge can subdue. Love's logic transcends formal logic—it even, in Marion's framework, transcends Being—and total love, not total explanation, is what Christianity is finally about.”
This brings us full circle, because Christianity has always said the Person is the Message (word made flesh). Why would God bother to become one other than for the purposes that we could become Him?
And to become Him, in essence, is total love.