From Clay Tablets to Social Media
By Robert L Wiese 2017
The quest for information about events within and surrounding one’s community has been part of humanities history. Packaged within a wider desire for knowledge about the world that surrounds us is the desire for power on one hand and survival on the other, meaning basic food and shelter and the competition between parties who will raid one another’s tribes, taking what is needed to survive. This will require Ogg to knock Smooog on the noggin to be on top of the heap to supply the meat. Simply stated it goes like this; What’s mine? What can be taken from me? What do I need to protect?
As civilization grew and such behavior became unacceptable, the need for certain expectations limiting bad behavior and learning to respect civilized boundaries, gave us the Rule of Law as we understand it today. Examples include the Rule of Hammurabi who ruled from 1792 BC to 1750 BC, his influence outliving him, and Mosaic Law that we are familiar with today.
Competition remained, with or without the boundaries of law and order. Tribal and political disagreement often resulted in conflict. Add to this, natural disaster, often resulting in famine, information was not widely known unless you were Smoog or his kin and such things happened in your valley or settlement. Move forward a few millennia and the advancement of technology, including the Industrial Revolution, changed how wide spread and how quickly information could be acquired. The news grew legs.
The late 19th and early 20th century and the growing Electronic Age brought us to where we are now in the 21st century. We have moved from news, politics, and other localized information in the agrarian and manufacturing age to being surrounded by information today.
It intrudes moment by moment and with it comes fun, fear, frustration, aw and anxiety. Sadly, there are also outburst of desperation, resulting in harm to others. Such often happens when people feel out of control, hopeless, un-heard, frightened of the uncertainty surrounding them, bringing the potential to lash out, locked and loaded, be it nation upon nation or person upon person. We seek ways to remedy this with many potential solutions and ideas from many viewpoints but often with limited success. We must not give up, yet with so many lenses and filters guiding so many opinions, the whirlpool spins faster and faster.
Humanity has tried many methods to maintain civility from religious and philosophical views to unbridled authoritarianism. We find ourselves relying on a single philosophy or a religious viewpoint, often of human origin with a form of godliness but lacking any substance thereof, with punitive and often confusing doctrines, dogmas, and rules. This has not proven all that helpful. Reference the Crusades or the Inquisition.
Politics, often merely a game where a toss of the dice to change the rules in mid -play, offers more confusion through lack of consistent leadership resulting in deepening polarization. Could this be what happens when we rely on others to solve our problems? After all, humankind needs stability. When things fall apart it’s hard not to believe we are the victims.
Please do not think I devalue our deeply held faith in the Living Christ, nor our nations Rule of Law. I am simply synthesizing my somewhat limited understanding, un-sophisticated as it may be, and trying to make sense of the white noise.
Could it be that the stability we long for, may begin within ourselves through God’s leading and the experience of our shared faith in Christ? It is my hope for our meeting that we not give place to the outward polarization and division that has defined our world, in recent times in particular. I believe we desire a safe place where diverse followers of Christ’s teachings, showing love to one another, laying down the sword of needing to be “right” and listening, learning to hear each other, without judgement is what we long for.
St Paul is recorded as writing in Php 2:12 and 13 “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” What I personally receive from this passage is Unity does not require loss of individuality.
True as it was nearly 400 years ago, it is still true today through George Fox’s words; “that Christ was come to teach people Himself, by His power and Spirit in their hearts, and to bring people off from all the world’s ways and teachers, to His own free teaching, who had bought them, and was the Savior of all them that believed in Him.” We need open hearts, not gate keepers. *1
For me, finding Spokane Friends Church in 1992 helped my spiritual growth along more than any other worshiping community I had been engaged in up to that point. This meeting has had an impact in many areas of my faith and I began to welcome challenges rather than shrink from them, to recognize and stop when I judge others and to not be afraid of my world but trust God. I learned the difference between fear and caution, and I enjoyed reaching out and trying new experiences, confident that if I am still uncomfortable in some way I can quietly withdraw for a while, seeking a firmer foundation, before I engage again. I also learned I can assuage some of this stress with a sense of humor, setting myself at ease and hopefully other as well. I am still growing in that way. It is a life-long process.
This brings me to ask this question; “What informs us?
Anxiety, fear, stress, worry, and conflict are the new everyday experience now. It can be witnessed in many ways; social media is up there with the ever-present downward glance, thumbs flipping, fingers zing-taping and swooshing. If there were an app for lips, they would be fully engaged. Let us not allow walking, eating, driving, or applying makeup to distract us from those vital Friend updates.
Even the competitive news media is available on tiny screens, or that new “60” wide screen” to better see the action in our world. Most news outlets are seeking ever larger market share through various methods of competition. Editorializing through sensationalism and “the teaser” keeps us glued to our devices and screens so we must view the “rest of the story” in the next half hour segment or at the 11:00 pod-broad- cast, but we must first view all the dinnertime medical miracles and magic pill adds three times so we don’t forget.
This “But Wait, There’s More” mentality slices and dices our sense of security and well-being, even our faith in humanity, and may influence our spirituality. Is this addiction to Likes, Un-likes and Unfriended suffering, trauma and over marketed fear keeping us glued to our devices at the cost of being in face to face community?
As I child I remember adults having discussions about troubling event of our world in the 50s and 60s. But if those aunties and uncles could spend a day or evening with us now, somehow gliding past the embarrassment, and jaw – drop shock and aw of what is seen today and is our normal viewing habit, they very well may long for those “good ole days” and with a nervous chuckle, excuse themselves abruptly and transport back to the safety Walter Cronkite and simpler days, happy just to Leave it to Beaver.
This has not gone un-noticed by behavioral health professionals. Pundits on TV and radio, (thank you NPR, for less shouting), even friends sitting at a common table or around a camp fire, are asking if all this stuff is healthy. Truly, much of the “stuff” isn’t but Dialog is.
What may dialog look like?
1 Be Informed but chose your sources. Think of our youth and their world view!
Being informed and balanced is important. For a good examination on how current trends are affecting the iGen or teenage population see Jean M Tweng’s article in The Augusts Atlantic Monthly; HAVE SMART PHONES DESTROYED A GENERATION suggesting;
“More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.”
This article is not so much about current world events as it is about what Jean Tweng calls the iGen and what they are not “plugged into” as much as what they are “plugged into” and how this may reflect on their views of the world they live in later. As this generation grows into adulthood, the habits that are formed now will to some degree inform their view of events they will encounter later.
Getting back to the wider screen that includes all generations, thoughtful questions for consideration may be “what do I hear or see daily that informs me? Is it truthful? Does it promote critical thinking? How do I feel when I watch or listen or participate per my usual habits? How do I feel when I am done?” This is as important for the iGen as it is for us.
2 Set some ground truths to rely on.
I believe the best way to seek understanding and balance in our response to our culture is to stop Judging others before we learn what life looks like through their experiences. Let’s create safe and healthy environments for people to be who they are. Let’s learn to laugh and always pray for one another.
3 Learn to not only listen but to truly hear.
It begins to make sense when we can hear the insight and experiences of others and learning what has worked for them and exploring what may work personally or in a worshiping community and knowing a faith community has each-others backs through prayer and support. People of my age may not experience isolation in the same way the iGen may but it is still worthy of consideration and conversation. This is what it means to be fully engaged.
4 Are we doing this now and is there support and encouragement that is needed to continue this mission?
I believe we at Spokane Friends are and will continue to do so. The more we practice open affirming and honest dialog the healthier we become.
Individual results may vary. Over the years I have known people who simply will not follow current events through the news on TV or the radio and cringe if current affairs are mentioned. For them it’s taboo. It’s better to avoid than engage. Yet I believe what is happening in our time is difficult to ignore and impossible to deny. Events happen and I cannot express enough the need to be informed and consider this in the light of the Living Christs example and perhaps provide ways to examine them without falling into the way of our culture, but rather seeking a way of loving our neighbors as we love ourselves and as Christ loves us so we may be a Light within our neighborhood and community.