Our collective knowledge is increasing exponentially. It’s simply impossible to comprehend the current explosion of information. About 20 years ago I interviewed the late Neil Postman, author of several books on media and information. They included Amusing Ourselves to Death and, later, Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. He warned back then that so much information was raining down on us from so many sources that we were becoming overwhelmed. He said that without context, it’s impossible to make sense of it all. Today we have e-mail, smartphones and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter to add to the mix. Many of us are connected all the time, constantly attentive, always replying, never quiet.
But is this always helpful or valuable? Usually there’s a price to pay. As the editors of the Hedgehog Review wrote in their Summer 2011 issue, “we spend more and more time in front of screens and less and less time in face-to-face communication, as well as less and less time by ourselves without some means of electronic communication to distract us from any possibility of solitude.”
Postman also made the comment that all scientific or technological progress is not necessarily human progress. “America has developed a new religion, as it were. And the religion is its faith that human progress and technological innovation are the same thing, and that paradise can be achieved through greater and greater commitment to technology.”
Just because technology is available doesn’t mean that it’s of benefit to us. In any case, we shouldn’t allow machines to dictate our pace of life. We shouldn’t become the tools of our tools. God made us to function within limits. His created world operates within prescribed time frames. Trees grow at certain rates. There’s nothing to be gained from hurrying. Human beings take about nine months to develop in the womb. It’s not helpful to rush the process to completion. Our minds and bodies operate within limits. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. We need to dream. We can’t operate for long without rest, and we’re not made to be perpetually connected to the Internet.
When Postman spoke of the need for context, he meant the way in which we frame life: how is information and its flow governed by the frame within which we live? For those who want to live according to biblical principles, the frame is exactly that: the Bible. What does God’s Word tell us about time to fulfill our responsibilities and time to think?
One scripture that comes to mind is Ephesians 5:15–16; “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” The sense is buying back or buying up time so that it can be effectively used, because we’re living in a difficult world that doesn’t reflect God’s values. So in respect of how we use time, we should be getting our priorities right, not wasting time that could be more beneficially used.
There’s more to consider when we talk about having the time to think. The Bible is filled with exhortations to meditate on God’s way so that we can live wisely. But meditation takes time, time that has been set aside for this specific purpose. It can’t be done when our days are filled to the max with distractions.
Perhaps we all need to take time to consider whether communication technologies and pace of life have been taking us away from the source of our life.