Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Too Much Information Gets Processed...
My generation grew up in a world inundated with information. We process so much of it that we've become very good at sifting through what is meaningful and true and what isn't. Necessarily, we intuitively detect any sort of falsehood or duping and are repulsed by it.
After thinking about that statement, I am more and more convinced that this is the conventional wisdom but it is patently false. Young people surely have grown up in a world inundated with information -- who would dispute that? The internet has spawned a new era of information overload. What I challenge is the idea that that they have learned to handle such information well, sifting through what is meaningful and true and what is crap, or that they have innate sensors to detect and reject half-truth or falsehoods.
I believe that this is exactly the problem with youth (and those not so young). They are NOT good at sifting through and have made very poor choices about what is truth and what is falsehood, what is urgent and what is trifling. If effect, we have learned in our information age to gorge ourselves at the altar of insignificant knowledge while ignoring that which is important and life-transforming. All the media available to us have not made us wiser or helped us make wiser choices. They have helped us escape from meaningful choices and hide in the shadows of the inconsequential. Read over the usual stuff posted on facebook or tweeted and you do not find eloquence or wisdom but mountains of triviality and self-indulgence. I do not blame them and I do not blame the technology but neither can I ignore the false images that have accompanied our foray into social networking, 24/7 internet, and lives defined or lived out on YouTube.
Young people are rejecting the Church for various reasons (hardly any of them really new or different from the same temptations that have plagued youth all along). But it is hardly because they are better at sifting through the crap to find what is true and treasure. Just the opposite. Youth and those not so young have the common problem of being blindsided by so much information, by an instinct guided more by desire and feeling than fact, and by a sense of truth which generally only one person wide and one moment deep. In the face of this all, it often requires a life changing circumstance or threat to awaken us to our own weakness.
I wonder if you cannot hear some of this in Steven Jobs' address to graduates that has been making its rounds of the social media and internet. He laments a past which was lost to him until the threat of death made things more clear to him. In my own heart, I hope and pray that this is an oblique reference to the Small Catechism and its teaching of the Gospel in that Lutheran faith in which Steven Jobs was raised. God knows, I do not. But his point is not lost to us. All the I-stuff in the world makes little difference if the I we are is a lie. It seems to me that youth and those not so young are equally situated to live the lie rather than in the light of Him who is the way, the truth and the life. What I pray for are those teaching and teachable moments created when technology, feeling, and desire cannot fix what ails us, when we look into the mirror and find that the emperor's clothing is a myth and we are still naked, vulnerable, and subject to death. When that happens, the Gospel becomes the one and only word that makes any difference.