Lent as an Exercise in Dependence
Becoming more human in an age of information
In 1948, Claude Shannon published a paper on the Theory of Information and Communication that set the stage for an understanding of Information as data - bits of sound that are capable of being transmitted in an orderly fashion across great distances.
Eventually this work led to the creation of what we call the internet and the dawning of the Information Age.
Today, we know more than we ever have, and we can share that knowledge with just about anybody anywhere at any time.
But the Information Age comes with some unintended consequences.
We used to ask our dad, or our neighbor, or a stranger how to change a tire. Now we ask a machine.
If we had a story to tell or an opinion to share, we used to do this around a table or while working side-by-side or at the weekly market. Now we read—or at least start to read—posts and articles written by strangers who we will never have the chance to personally engage.
And all of this is heralded as good news.
Our age is built around the premise that information will save you.
Do you have an unusual or embarrassing rash developing? Need to know what sporty business chic attire means for your nephew’s wedding?
Life in the Information Age is convenient. We are more informed now than we ever have been, but there is a catch.
Vivek Murthy is the current surgeon general of the United States. In 2017, towards the end of his previous term, he wrote this:
During my years spent caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes. It was loneliness.
Andy Crouch once said that the Information Age is a great place to gain information and power, but is not a great place to be a human person.
This is, in one sense, a progression of history: the obsession with information over wisdom in the 20th century led to a modern, lonely society. But it is actually an ancient problem—perhaps the most ancient of problems.
In Genesis we are told that Adam and Eve went from walking and talking with God in the cool of the day to being banished from his presence. This disconnect affected their relationship with God, to be sure, but also their relationship with one another. After leaving the Garden, humanity began the long journey of being alone together.
All of this, because Adam and Eve wanted a shortcut to wisdom.
Wisdom was meant to be slowly gleaned through a relationship with God, not grasped in an instant.
But when our First Parents took and ate of the fruit of that tree, it represented an attempt to shortcut this process. It was a desire for information instead of relationship.
Satan said to Eve, ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’
After they ate, notice their first reaction:
They covered their most intimate parts from each other, and then they hid from God.
The human pursuit of information and power over relationship began in the Garden of Eden. And it has continued—with destructive results—ever since.
Fast forward from Genesis 3 to John 3—to a late night conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus. A different context, a mostly different cast of characters, but the same old story.
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