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Technology and Spirituality: Quickly Becoming Unlikely Bedfellows

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There are some professions which will always be around.  My first boyfriend in high school helped his dad run a funeral business – economic crises or not, this is business they can always count on.  Smart.  Working for the IRS is a pretty safe bet too, although I’m not sure why anyone would develop a passion for all things taxes, but this is none of my concern.

The other day I was standing in line at Trader Joe’s and heard the check-out girl getting NFATH (Nostalgia for all Things Handwritten) and seeming truly distraught posing this question to a pleasant older lady, “What’s going to happen to all of the calligraphers!?”  While, this isn’t the first thing that grabs my mind when I think about the drawbacks of everything being electronic, it was a valid point.  Email correspondence, just like most everything else in industrialized society (microwaves, frozen food, automated prompts on telephone services, etc.) is designed to speed up life and make everything easier and more convenient.  I refuse to overcompensate to prove a point and would not consider myself some kind of Amish-Mennonite purist, technology is such a powerful part of evolving us.  The question is, do we use technology or let it use us, thereby becoming an effect. 

The danger enters when technology replaces pure human connection and spirituality.  There is no reason the two can’t co-exist peacefully, but technology should remain in a subordinate role anytime we are faced with a decision of any profound importance.  Texting someone or clicking the send button is a much easier way to ‘catch-up’ with someone.  When my grandfather died in 1994, I went to visit my grandmother that summer.  I am so grateful for the time spent with her – doubtless a very healthy aspect of her grieving process. She pulled out boxes of letters which were placed in order documenting the very beginning of the courtship with my grandfather, starting in 1937.  If there ever was a “The Notebook” love story it was my grandparents.  They argued about religion, talked about her teaching and his law school, meeting their future in-laws, marriage proposals (which she ignored every time via post), all the way through to when they had been married six months and he was stationed in Germany during WW II.  I believe that having those letters was a saving grace for my grandmother.  For me, they were a priceless treasure, not only a way to get to know my grandparents – who they were and where they came from, on a much deeper level, but something that I hold in the back of my mind as to what a sacred relationship should be – in spite of modern times.  Today, any eight or nine sentence emails, (either profound or full of small talk) will most likely end up in the ether and forever forgotten.  As times move more quickly, communication seems to take on less importance just by virtue of the supply and demand model; anything fleeting can be replaced in short order.  We are becoming so obsessed with speed, convenience and gadgets that we forget that human beings are more important, not the number of emails we answer or send, or surfacey things we discuss throughout the day.  What are we sacrificing for a life in front of computers? Connection with nature, good health, building substantial connections with people around us, the creativity we are forfeiting for addictive technology and time suckers?  Again, the key is to use technology and be its master, not its slave. 

As we have relied more and more on Facebook, email, and texting for our modes of communication, we are through our actions sending a message that speed and quantity is the most important order of the day.  I am not some sort of mad idealist wanting to live in the past.  I am fully accepting of the fact that dowries have outlived their useful purposes just as surely as true courtships seem to be few and far between- at least in the X generation.  What concerns me is that we will get lazier and lazier, simultaneously shifting our focus to one of ease for ourselves over true sharing and reaching out to other people, whether it is friend, family or that girl you want to date.  This dire need for speed is serving nothing but our own self-absorption and narcissism.  Life becomes more insistently about “me, my time, my schedule.”  I’m too lazy to pick up the phone and call so I’m going to send a FB invite.  This person isn’t on FB so instead of going to the trouble to call them to catch up with them and see how they are doing, I’ll just text them.  Or I’ll text this girl to avoid rejection.  No harm no foul.  And it goes on and on.  There  may never be a big box of letters to show future generations how it was for us or from which we can learn.  I suppose if we wanted to print out emails that were worthy of saving we could – but that’s not the point.  The point is, we don’t have time for anything anymore unless it somehow relates to ourselves – nothing that truly matters. 

I read somewhere that our world has been evolving at such mach speed that our nervous systems are simply not equipped to handle the overstimulation.  We haven’t even physiologically been able to catch up with technology.  The speed is not computing with our systems and sending our nervous systems and cortisol levels through the roof so we are in constant agitation; the same fight or flight mode that kicks in when we are running from a tiger. The question is, will you choose the technological revolution to serve your spirit or will you banish your spirit and serve the god of technology, the likes of which can replace true spiritual connections with the click of a button.  Who is really in charge here?  What scares me the most is when I see people sitting on the bus or at a bar madly texting away on their cell phones or blackberries.  Although seeing this is as commonplace as someone crossing the street, really step back and take a bird’s eye perspective – as if you were an alien visiting a foreign planet.  From a removed objective perspective, not only is the picture weird, but the implications are scary.  Everyone is ignoring the world around them.  We are becoming totally separated from each other, masturbating to our own obsessions with ourselves.  People are actually beginning to feel uncomfortable sitting next to someone without something to do.  What about reaching out to that person or helping them with directions?  That doesn’t seem to happen anymore, iPods are more important.

Again, a quote from MLK Jr. 

“We must rapidly begin to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society.  When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

There is nothing wrong with Her Royal Highness technology, but we need to stop being her bitch.  Technology will end up (if it has not already started) claiming our souls and subordinating what is most important -Facebook status, texting and iPods be damned.  I just can’t imagine a grandmother sitting with her granddaughter talking about the Facebook messages that got her through the mourning if her husband.  Who knows, maybe everyone will be sitting at their computers like robots, too busy to notice she was even widowed, or God forbid, texting away on their blackberries during the funeral.


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