Saturday, January 24, 2009

Better than a Blackberry

My two-year-old Palm Treo isn’t as shiny as it used to be. For one thing, I’ve dropped it lots of times. (Happily, nobody was around to catch that on video.)

More to the point, the technology has moved far beyond it. A mere 700 days ago, my Treo was a cutting-edge device. Now, the iPhones sported by some of my friends have left it in the dust.

My Palm gives me phone access and organizes my chaos and that’s enough for me. At 55, I don’t have to lead the information technology revolution. Younger folks can wow me with their handheld window to the world. I’m still fascinated by all of it, and intrigued by a book like Wikinomics that elaborates on where the current trajectory could take us.

(For example, the author notes that the goal of Wikipedia is to see that “every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge.” Amazing. And just think: if they succeed, and everybody has a handheld, maybe school will become obsolete. After all, if every fact on every subject is available to every person in seconds from any location, who needs to go to some boring class?)

In fact, I guess ChaCha represents steps already taken in that direction.

Thus does information technology advance. Even the Bible is available as software, even on a handheld. I use it myself, with great benefit.

Still, as fascinating as all this intrusive technology may be, there’s something curious about it. If I read my Bible rightly, there is a dimension of life … a very important dimension … that cannot be digitized and downloaded.

The following verses suggest that the nurture of God’s word cannot be reduced to streaming bits:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers. Psalm 1:1-3

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Joshua 1:8

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

The Bible is given to us as a whole-life source, one that requires regular reading and consistent contemplation. It could be thought of as the opposite of consulting a reference work. You can go to the library and dwell among the classics in reflective study, or simply pull an encyclopedia to look up a fact. Both have their appropriate uses. But they are not equal in their impact on who I am.

Looking up a fact in a reference can be very helpful, but it has little if any impact on my character. On the other hand, when I spend time in thoughtful reflection of ideas and concepts written down by men and women of maturity and wisdom, I am changed. (Which suggests we would do well to keep going to school after all.)

To the degree that those ideas and concepts are biblical, in synch with the one authoritative revelation available to us, the change is profound, and good, and even eternal.

That says something about our nature, since the same Designer who made us also ordained that wisdom and prosperity come from deliberation of His divine Word.

Maybe scriptural meditation was never easy for us distractable humans. But if there was ever a time when we were tempted to neglect it, maybe we’re living in it now.

Or, maybe not yet.

Maybe, if Jesus tarries, a day will come when the data stream will go straight to our brain, no handheld needed. If so, even then our nature would not change. Even in such a world, our growth and our prosperity would depend on our obedience to God’s laws: tune out the chatter, get the Word in, mull it over, think about it, dwell on it.

That's work, to be sure, but work with better rewards. Better even than the latest Blackberry.