In the past week we have heard of chemical weapons being deployed in Syria. The very thought sends shock waves through our hearts and minds. To see the effect of such action upon the lives of ordinary people, both children and adults is horrific and evokes memories of other times in recent world history were man’s technological advancement has been used to annihilate fellow human beings. The gas attacks in the trenches of World War 1, the gas used at the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau along with the Atomic Bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki all come readily to mind. In these atrocities human kind used technology to achieve the mass killing of human beings.
Technology may be a blessing or a curse. A cursory glance around our home or office will readily show the blessings of technology, for example: TV’s, microwave ovens, computers, internet access, automatic washing machines, mobile phones and CD’s to mention a few. Let us not forget the advances in medical science and technology that are used for so much good within our public and private hospital system. Alsomodern technology has revolutionized our banking sector, with Eftpos and ATM machines.
Last week while at Auckland airport, it seemed every person, children included, had a mobile phone attached to their hand or they were reading from an iPad or a Kindle. Information and communication technology has become central to our modern way of living.
Technology enables us to engage with life and equally to become easily distracted from the reality of life. Our modern lifestyles, are overflowing with technological abundance, yet, people are experiencing increasing disconnection with one another and with our natural world. I readily accept that people do use modern communication technology to make connections with one another, through such means as Facebook, Twitter and on line chat sites.
Despite all this amazing modern technology available to us, we humans are still doing our best to tear each other apart. Read any newspaper in this beautiful land, watch any TV news and it shouts, ‘we are not making a great job of being human beings’. Yet, we do catch glimpses of wonder and beauty that warm our hearts and not just when the All Blacks win or we win a boat race on San Francisco Bay. In this land of Aotearoa, New Zealand, there is an increase of greed, depression, and anger flows like a subterranean stream through the psyche of our contemporary society.
It is what is inside that is important, this is what determines how we live and ultimately how we die. We often forget that wars don’t just happen on far off battlefields, they are fought within the human hearts of everyday ordinary people like you and I.
When we accept that technology is not our ‘saviour’, rather is our servant, and we humans are responsible for how we use it for good, to promote peace and compassion, unfortunately the opposite also happens. Take for instance those technological machines we know as computers and the internet, they can be used for so much good, but in the wrong hands they can be an instrument for abuse, violence and death.
You may think I am being too negative; that I have seen too much of the seamy side of life; may be, may not. I am not without hope, because there is always hope, whose presence offers new life and possibilities for creativity and change.
I offer you these words from John O’Donohue from his book Eternal Echoes, who describes so well our current society and the human need to belong:
In post-modern culture there is a deep hunger to belong. An increasing majority of people feel isolated and marginalized. Experience is haunted by fragmentation. Many of the traditional shelters are in ruins. Society is losing the art of fostering community. Consumerism is nowpropelling life towards the lonely isolation of individualism.
Technology pretends to unite us, yet more often than not all, it delivers are simulated images. The “global village” has no roads or neighbours; it is a faceless limbo from which all individuality has been abstracted. Politics seems devoid of the imagination that calls forth vision and ideals; it is becoming ever more synonymous with the functionalism of economic pragmatism….
From this perspective, it seems we are in the midst of a huge crisis of belonging. When the outer cultural shelters are in ruins, we need to explore and reawaken the depths of belonging in the human mind and soul; perhaps, the recognition of the depth of our hunger to belong may gradually assist us in awakening new and unexpected possibilities of community and friendship.
The last sentence is the challenge: the recognition of the depth of our hunger to belong may gradually assist us in awakening new and unexpected possibilities of community and friendship. Here at our Community of St Aidans, we too are awakening to the possibilities of community and friendship in our fast changing technological world. For we people, still need to belong and foster community together within our webs of belonging.
I am realistic that we can’t be all things to all people, but we can be that welcoming and inclusive community that seeks to make a difference starting with ourselves. From time to time people will come and dip their toes in to test the water of our community, some will like what they feel and plunge in and enjoy the experience, while others will quickly dry their toes and keep on looking for a more suitable experience and place in which to belong……
In our current place in history I see no other way forward, other than the way of community. This requires courage and hope to see what might be possible together, using technology to serve us not control us.
Who knows what we may achieve and discover about life on our journey together, fostering community and friendship………..
I leave you with this prayer / poem from Michael Leunig
We pray for another way of being:
another way of knowing.
Across the difficult terrain of our existence
we have attempted to build a highway
and in so doing have lost our footpath:
God lead us to our footpath;
Lead us there where in simplicity
we may move at the speed of natural creatures
and feel the earth’s love beneath our feet.
Lead us there where step-by-step we may feel
the movement of creation in our hearts.
And lead us where side-by-side
we may feel the embrace of the common soul.
Nothing can be loved at speed.
God lead us to the slow path; to the joyous insights
of the pilgrim; another way of knowing; another way of being.
Meanwhile Peace, living with modern technology, while fostering community
From my heart to yours – September 2013
An inclusive Christian community in Auckland, New Zealand