Wednesday, May 5, 2010

{book}worm wednesday :: precariously on a soapbox

I was sitting there watch them do this for a couple minutes before I decided to actually leave the room and try to go get the camera; thinking, by the time I did that, the moment would be over. But the Foot Book has some serious staying power and the moment held in spite of my clicking away inches from their faces. It was such a lovely scene. For all the terror she gives him, he still seems to enjoy doting on her and joining me in the pursuit to make this family a reading one! What a sweet boy.

On the list front, I do not have a very stellar one again today. I don't really have a list at all, in fact. Chalk it up to monoliths like Les Miserables (which Josh just finished today! 1000+ pages later...) or the incessant reading of board books (our Goodnight Moon edition just bit the dust once and for all), or the fact that I am trying to bust my way through this last, way-overdue library book, and you have a pretty meager list. All the books I just alluded to or mentioned have already been on previous lists, and some a couple of times. We will move on at some point, but I guess it won't be tonight

Instead, I give you a short essay (or rambling) on reading an actual book. As in, one with pages and words printed on them with ink. You might think this sounds unnecessary to talk about. You might think me the most boring blog writer known to internet-using man. You could be right.

In the world we live in, reading literacy is promoted far and wide. It's a hugely popular and pervasive goal for schools, families, organizations, and societies in general. And yet, in spite of all our waxing on about the importance of reading, recent generations continue to prove that they are the least literate of all who have come before. We lament the dangers and mind-damaging effects of too much television, and yet continue to raise children who are drowning in the sea of technology around them:  from television to internet -based study, from portable game devices to cell phones. I use all those things by the way (minus the game-thingy). But a wise man once said that technology is not neutral. For all the good technology brings, we need to be striving to be aware of the bad as well .

 "It gives you something, but it also taketh away something. [In America] we tend to be extremely enthusiastic about technology, about what it is going to bring us, so that almost every American... can tell you for a half hour or more what this new technology will do for us. But there are very few people who have ever considered what a new technology will undo."

It is this undoing that concerns me. The Information Overload can actually affect the way you think and process the world you live in. Think about this: books are our windows to history. Not merely because they record historical events and facts, but because they are written by people who were living in and breathing that historical time period. When we begin to get all our information in a synthesized format off an internet site, instead of engaging in the subtleties and nuances of an authors shared perspective and experience, then we have disconnected ourselves from that history.

Eventually, we may even lose that history. In fact, there appears to be an increasing decline in being concerned with what previous generations have thought or said about the issues we currently wrestle with. We are a present-loving, new-information-junkie generation. In everything from political theory to how to educate our kids to the care of the land or the treatment of the poor, there is an almost naive ignorance of the need to look backwards before looking forwards.

Another example of the way technology pushes literacy out the proverbial window is the way it affects our ability to think about and exist as religious creatures. I do not mean merely in following a religion (of course they help us do that! What would we do without our sound systems and power point presentations, right?), but in the practice of it and ultimately in the muscle flexing work of it. The way the Bible in particular demands a person to think and believe can be undermined by the powers of technological advances.

"Technology implies a kind of rational-- or should I say, an emphasis on the rational because technologies work. See, that's the wonderful thing about them.. Airplanes do fly and penicillin, I think, tends to make people better, and television does show you someone in some far-off place. So technology works in an unambiguous way -- in the way that prayer, for instance, or even faith in God doesn't always work."

How does the power of prayer, in all of its knee-kneeling, back-breaking, patience pounding and time-consuming work, stand its ground in the face of technology that forever offers itself as the newest and easiest way to accomplish anything? Take it from a personal testimonial, it doesn't fare very well. The road to prayer in todays climate (and lets be honest, probably in every climate since the Fall!) is an uphill battle that brings sweetness only as the one is shunned and the other is believed in and given precedence to.

"Technology has the power to change the "way we think or organize our social life, or make us better or worse, or smarter or dumber, or freer or more enslaved."

Reading books, their pages laden with the thoughts and en-souled lives of men and women of all generations, is one way we can fight the battle against the individualism, the ethnocentrism, the narcissism, the pessimism, the apathy, the ignorance, the spiritual weakness of our day. While there is a lot of good in these technological advances, their praises are heralded each and every day wherever they exist, and so I choose to discuss the "darker side" here. Aren't you just so glad?

A couple good books on the issue:
Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology by Neil Postman (or his famous, Amusing Ourselves to Death)
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age by Sven Birkerts

And the above italicized quotes are from the following sources:
Interview with Neil Postman on, August 30, 1992
Postman, Neil. "Social Science as Theology." Et cetera issue Spring 1984.

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