Technological Humanity (almost done The Benedict Option)

In this final chapter of main content in The Benedict Option, Rod Dreher discusses technology. Technology, he argues, is not neutral. Yet he does little to demonstrate this thesis at large outside of the fact that social media technology and the barrage of information (not really ‘knowledge’) on the Internet are probably bad for our minds and our ability to concentrate and engage in what is called deep reading.

Of course, technology may be bad. Or it may be neutral and used for bad purposes. If you aren’t paranoid about nuclear energy, for example, the same technology is useful for electricity for our homes as well as for blowing stuff up and killing thousands of people. Take your pick.

But the most important takeaway is, of course, our use of information technology.

This distracts our minds and fragments our attention. Fragmented attention makes sustained thought, meditation, contemplation, deep reading, difficult. This is no new discovery — hence my recent post quoting Burchard of Worms, c. 1000. C. S. Lewis complained that the radio — the radio — hampered his ability to do sustained reading and writing.

Our distractions have grown even more invasive and pervasive. We read brief posts and articles online, sometimes even good ones, and follow hyperlinks wherever they lead. We passively allow the Internet to set our agenda, while at the same time carefully crafting echo chambers where conservatives and liberals can avoid each other, except (of course) when they go trolling.

And when we’re done with social media, news outlets, and whatever else the Web has to offer, we can further numb our minds with Netflix.

I’m as guilty as anyone.

But if we want to get into habits of deep reading, deep thinking, rich prayer, silence, quiet, solitude. If we want to be able to stand against a world we perceive as corrupt and corrupting, we need to unplug.

We need the Desert.

This is why, after one final post about this book, I’m going to take a 1-week break from personal blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and then see how I do when I resurface. I may return to this blog but not Facebook for a while after that… Technofast, here we come!

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Burchard of Worms on the distracted mind

From the preface of Burchard’s Decretum (ca. 1012-1023):

I was unable to proceed [with this project] for two reasons: because of various and inevitable ecclesiastical obligations, which emerge daily just as waves of the sea, and, moreover, because of responsibility for secular affairs relating to imperial commands. These greatly blunt the mind of one zealous and striving toward higher things, because the mind of anyone, while it is divided among very many things, will be weaker for each one. (Trans. Somerville & Brasington, Prefaces to Canon Law Books in Latin Christianity, p. 100)

This final clause is exactly the result of spending too much time on social media and not enough time in deep reading and personal interactions.

Makes me seriously consider taking another techno-fast, or getting off Facebook & Twitter altogether…

Extract from Burchard’s Decretum, taken from Wikimedia Commons.