Solomon’s Blackberry – Part 2

Posted by on Feb 4, 2011

William Powers book, Hamlet’s Blackberry, urges us to include age-old disciplines in our digitally-overfull lives. I want to apply these techniques in my pursuit of wisdom:

– Stay completely disconnected from my computer and iPhone while having a quiet time. My Bible (the paper one), a notebook, and pen are sufficient.

– Try to have an Internet Sabbath one day a week.

– When engaging in conversation with others, I want to do so with as few distractions as possible – phone on silent, computer off, etc.

– Value the discipline of handwriting in a journal. I agree with Powers that a physical artifact, a notebook, differs qualitatively from electronic symbols on a screen.

– Replace mere negative disciplines (e.g. don’t watch TV, don’t stay connected to the internet all the time) with positive ones (e.g. meditate on scripture, memorize key verses, etc.).

But Powers’ entire worldview is completely devoid of God. All we need to attain wisdom, depth, character, etc. lies within. He strongly endorses the stoicism of Seneca and Marcus Aurelius and sees “inner self-sufficiency” as the highest good. He leaves no doubt of his position (and no room for help from above) when he concludes his book with these words:

“…in the end, building a good life isn’t about where you are. It’s about how you decide to think and live. Place your index finger on your temple and tap twice. It’s all in there” (240).

Well, I’m all in favor of the lost art of meditation. We certainly need to turn off the constant noise and be still. But if “it’s all in there,” I’m in trouble. And so are you. Contrary to Seneca, Thoreau, and most every prominent voice in our secular age, Jesus warned, “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’” He elaborated, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” (Matt 15:11, 19). We don’t just need to look inward. We need to be transformed from the inside out.

Solomon warned that mere introspection, if we’re honest, is far less pretty than Thoreau ever dared to admit. “Under the sun” (i.e. apart from God), we’re only going to find vanity, emptiness, and despair.

Maybe that’s why our digital age is so obsessed with connectedness with the outside world. Apart from God, if we look inward, we’re only going to get depressed. If that’s what inward stillness leads to, who wouldn’t prefer the next app, another email, more friends on Facebook, and more frequent tweets!

Powers’ book may be a good starting point for meaningful conversations – with others and within our own minds. But we need a better framework, a Biblical one, for pursuit of real wisdom, godly character, and “a good life in the digital age.”

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