Technology and the Season

The Common RuleYesterday I mentioned reading C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity as one of the “practices” that I’m putting in place for the Advent season.  Suggestions for times like these usually involve both adding and removing from the routine to help set times apart.  So this time around, inspired first by Crouch’s Tech-Wise Family but also by Justin Earley’s Common Rule, I’m trying something with tech.

In the Advent edition of the Common Rule, Earley challenges believers to practice “Scripture before phone.”  For many people, phones are both the first and last things we see on an average day.  They act as our alarm clocks.  They give us an odd sense of security.  But for the next three weeks, I’ve got an actual alarm clock set across the room. At night I put the phone away from the nightstand and get some sleep without even thinking about checking for updated feeds.  And maybe, just maybe, this can bleed over into the rest of the year, too.

One other aspect of Earley’s Common Rule for Advent that really gets at our need to rethink our practices is the encouragement to stay away from our phones while waiting in line.  Grocery store, bus stop, theater, you name it.  Not quite ready for that practice, I think.  But it definitely gets to the heart of our present condition.

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A few days ago, David Brooks posted an essay about technology in contemporary society (which is its own industry at this point).  The whole piece, which you can find here, is worth the read.  It starts off interestingly enough:

Not long ago, tech was the coolest industry. Everybody wanted to work at Google, Facebook and Apple. But over the past year the mood has shifted.

Some now believe tech is like the tobacco industry — corporations that make billions of dollars peddling a destructive addiction. Some believe it is like the N.F.L. — something millions of people love, but which everybody knows leaves a trail of human wreckage in its wake.

And then it ends smartly enough:

Imagine if instead of claiming to offer us the best things in life, tech merely saw itself as providing efficiency devices. Its innovations can save us time on lower-level tasks so we can get offline and there experience the best things in life.

Imagine if tech pitched itself that way. That would be an amazing show of realism and, especially, humility, which these days is the ultimate and most disruptive technology.

Food for thought this Advent season, as we re-learn our ability to wait . . . and to hope.

(image from thecommonrule.org . . . if you’ve heard of it or are trying it, let me know)

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