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Why You Should Do Something Today Other than Read this Blog

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If you’ve ever taken a walk in a suburban neighborhood on a pleasant fall or summer evening, an amazing sight is almost certain to greet your eyes. As you stroll along the streets of Suburbia, USA you’ll become aware of the astounding reality that you are almost entirely alone on the street as you walk. Further, as the sun sets, the glow of another light source starts to become more noticeable. You will see waves and flashes of multicolored light streaming forth from the living room windows of the vast majority of houses in the neighborhood, seeming almost to rival the luminescent undulations of the Aurora Borealis. The glow of thousands of televisions lights up the streets of these modern United States.

Ray Bradbury captures a very similar scene in his 1951 short story, The Pedestrian. He writes about Leonard Mead, a resident of the not-too-distant future. Mead loves to go on a stroll every evening, which he has done for years. He takes in the crisp evening air as he walks, letting his feet take him where they will, enjoying the walk for its own sake and not because it achieves a purpose. But in this eerie, futuristic world, Mead walks alone on streets that are silent, long, and empty. Though Mead walks through neighborhoods packed with houses, Bradbury writes, “If he closed his eyes and stood very still, frozen, he could imagine himself upon the center of a plain, a wintry, windless Arizona desert with no house in a thousand miles, and only dry river beds, the streets, for company.”1

The reason for his solitude is revealed as Mead dialogues somewhat ironically with the houses he passes: “’Hello, in there,’ he whispered to every house on every side as he moved. ‘What’s up tonight on Channel 4, Channel 7, Channel 9? Where are the cowboys rushing, and do I see the United States Cavalry over the next hill to the rescue?’” Mead alone of all the residents of this futuristic world does not spend every evening hour watching the “viewing screen” that dominates all the other homes except his own. He alone seems to be alive.

Will this be the reality in A.D. 2053? Probably not. Does Bradbury exaggerate for effect? Maybe a little. After all, some people do still go for walks today, and it seems as if they will continue to do so. Nonetheless, in this story Bradbury is something of a prophet. Enraptured as we are today with all the wonders of technology, we run the risk of forgetting the majesty of an evening stroll.

I am sure that Bradbury, who died only a few years ago, saw the imagined setting of his short story becoming reality as he entered the later years of his life. In 1951 he could hardly have imagined the personal computer, the portable laptop, the tablet, or, above all, the smartphone. But these “viewing screens” perhaps hold our world in a far tighter grip than do the home-restricted viewing screens of Mead’s world.

The smartphone accompanies us everywhere. And when it accompanies us, what does it cause us to leave behind? What has technology changed about our human existences? I think that three of the things that our technological civilization is changing about us, without our even knowing it at times, is that it has caused us to spend less time contemplating the beauty of nature, delving into the truth of good books, and delighting in the goodness of the people all around us.

Nature is a Book of God

Firstly, I believe that our screens are sometimes guilty of taking us away from beauty. It is not uncommon today that even when one encounters someone walking in the park, his greeting to his fellow parkgoer will be ignored. He or she is buried in some surely engrossing smartphone activity, neglecting not just other people but the natural beauty all around.

We drive through nature preserves, safely protected from their raw majesty by our leather seats, air-conditioning, and a continuous deluge of music, which is often meant to distract us precisely from confronting the full face of beauty or its gut-wrenching absence when life seems so empty. Or, how many hours do we spend inside reading the news online, checking social media, and playing video games? None of these activities are bad in themselves, but they certainly change our orientation from appreciating the beauty of the exterior—of nature—to the human marvels that are inside our homes. They direct our attention from the splendor of what God has made to the complexity and ingenuity of what man has made.

Nature, according to Venerable Fulton Sheen, is the third book of God after the Old and New Testaments.2 It is the written story of God’s beauty, and it is sitting right within the grasp of our minds and hearts. And we constantly yearn to contemplate that beauty so that we can be drawn to God.

With an insight that challenges us air-conditioned hermits of today, C.S. Lewis writes, “Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a meaning for me.”3 When is the last time you got muddy or sat at the roots of tree just enjoying the things that God made to delight and enlighten you? Why don’t we take a lesson from Mr. Mead’s book and go on a stroll outside, even if that means just walking the streets of a city? For even there the glory of the sky reminds us that it is the beauty of God that contains all, not the intelligence of man.

Truth Trumps Trivia

Secondly, the internet allows us to be guilty of preferring trivia over truth. People today spend countless hours mindlessly sifting through the internet’s vast treasuries of “fail” videos, random facts, and all other sorts of digital drivel. In conversation, we are quick to cite brief facts we have learned from the internet or reference a funny video we saw (out of the twenty others we boredly viewed beforehand). Yet, how capable are we of asking and answering the questions that really matter? Sure, you may be able to sing all the verses of What Does the Fox Say? (kudos to you if you can do that), but what answers can you give to the questions of death and suffering or life and its proper joy? Such questions are only appropriately and fully explored in contemplation, conversation, and good books.

Short blog posts don’t ask very much of us. They may make a good point that causes us to think differently or even to alter our attitudes for a little while, but books ask a lot more of us, and because of this they offer us a lot more. Blogs always only capture part of a story or one aspect of a much larger question. Sometimes they capture a key part of that story, but books engage the question in a more comprehensive (though not exhaustive) manner. You commit yourself to a book; you scan and quickly digest an article or blog. But by committing yourself to a book, by reading it when it is boring or disagreeable, you strengthen and sharpen your mind. You broaden your horizons.

When you read a book, you swim in the ocean of truth; when you read a blog, you splash in its tide pools. If you want to train yourself to swim against the current and to set out in deep waters, the tide pool will never be enough.

Let’s go back to our friend Mr. Mead for a moment. In Bradbury’s story, we in fact accompany Mr. Mead on the last of his evening walks. As he nears his house at the end of his walk, a police robot pulls up alongside him and questions his strange activity. The robot asks, “What are you doing out?” When Mead admits that he is walking just for the sake of it and that he doesn’t have a viewing screen in his house, he is promptly arrested for his “regressive tendencies”. He doesn’t fit in with a society that has allowed itself to be wholly consumed by technology.

He also doesn’t fit in because he is a writer. Though, he reflects that he in fact hasn’t written anything in years. After all, people are no longer interested in reading. It’s much easier to just plop in front of their viewing screens and let themselves be washed in constant entertainment and shallow facts. That way they don’t have to bother themselves with all those tricky questions like, “Why do I exist?” “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?” I pray that we do not abandon the art, joy, and truth of reading for the sake of our screens and their trivia.

The Dramatic Goodness of the Person

Finally, we are in danger of forgetting the goodness of real persons. With all our capabilities for instant communication, we run the risk of letting those suffice instead of seeking out real personal communication. No social media platform will ever be equivalent to the wonder of interpersonal interactions.

There is no fitting substitute for a face to face conversation, for there we encounter another person in the fullest way that we can. We see the look in her eyes, the expression on her face, and we hear the tone of her voice. We listen as she tells a story, and as she does so, she really tells the story of who she is. The drama of her person is on display through her gestures and emotions. And we are invited to become an actor in the lived drama of her existence. We are reminded that people are not just internet profiles or blog commenters. They are so much more than that, and they are good.

Humans are complex but wonderful. Facebook can never truly teach us this. In conversing with other people we demonstrate our humanity. We learn who they are and who we are. We become properly human, for the human always exists in relation to others and flourishes only in relation to others.

So, close your laptop or turn off your phone today. Go take a stroll and encounter the beauty of nature, swim in the deep truth of a great book, or have a good conversation with a friend. In short, go be human.

Notes:

  1. Bradbury, Ray (August 7, 1951). Ascoli, Max, ed. "The Pedestrian" (PDF). The Reporter (220 East 42nd Street, New York 17, NY: Fortnightly Publishing Company) 5 (3). Retrieved 30 March 2015.
  2. Fulton J. Sheen, Life of Christ - Complete and Unabridged, Image ed. (Garden City: Doubleday, 1977), 267.
  3. C S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960), 20.
Martin Dober

Written by

Martin Dober is in his second year of studying theology at St. Mary Seminary, where he is being formed for priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland. He enjoys reading, being outdoors, and journeying in faith with Catholic youth. Above all, he seeks to know and love Jesus Christ better and strives to meet the challenge of daily becoming more like Him.

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  • William Davis

    This was a pretty good article and I agree with it to a certain extent. I'm definitely a fan of Bradbury and loved the story "The Pedestrian" and think it's more prophetic than even the author realizes. There are many futurists like Ray Kurzweil (now head of engineering at Google so I'm not talking about a fringe element) who think the future will be better when we become "post-human" i.e. when we don't physically exist but live in a computer simulation. I kid you not...this kind of thing should concern most thinking people, in my opinion, as we continue to embrace and more fully integrate technology in our lives. I think many here would agree that being biological is a requirement for being human, though not a requirement for having a mind.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JR57633ztYc

    I am a futurist myself, and think that technology has already enhanced our lives but can do so even more so in the future (caveats from my last paragraph aside). What we do with technology is our fault, not the fault of technology itself. In my world, the internet has given me greater access to real knowledge than I ever though possible. E-books on pc and kindle, audio books, excellent research papers...the amount of real, non-trivial information that's available simply boggles the mind. Sure there is plenty of garbage out there too, but it's my job to find the good stuff and ignore the junk. This applies to the pursuit of knowledge as much as it does to eating food. Just because junk is out there does not mean I should consume it.

    Other than an occasional movie or extremely well rated TV show (like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad) I largely regard television as a waste of time. I'm actually a fan of moderate computer gaming, however. Unlike television it's interactive, and many studies show moderating playing can noticeably increase cognitive performance. More study needs to be done, but here is the conclusion from a meta-analysis:

    In sum, game training holds great promise as one of the few training techniques to show transfer beyond the trained task. The number and diversity of findings we have discussed appear to provide converging evidence for gaming effects, although the extent of convergence is qualified by the issues we have raised. By adopting a set of clinical trial best practices, and by considering and eliminating alternative explanations for gaming effects, future studies could help define the full extent of the possible benefits of gaming for perception and cognition. Such definitive tests could have implications well beyond the laboratory, potentially helping researchers to develop game interventions to address disorders of vision and attention and remediate the effects of cognitive aging.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3171788/

    • Well said. Both nature and tech are often wonderful and beautiful. Often boring, often devastating and extremely dangerous.

      • Quote from the Evil Overlord: "Man sitting in front of computer writing blog post tells people to stop sitting in front of computers reading blog posts"

        • Martin Dober

          You are right that there is something ironic about using technology to be critical of technology, but it seemed like the right way to reach the intended audience. Blogs can be a great way of learning things, and the internet is a priceless and wonderful treasure, but technology can also let us be distracted away from things that matter most.

  • Who would criticize such a pleasant, whimsical notion?

    Well... I wouldn't, except to say that the inclusion of this piece on this site seems to be an example of something I to take issue with.

    This is the suggestion that things like community, appreciation of nature, morality, beauty are inherently related to either religious belief, or the existence of a deity.

    This issue is not conceded, though both sides would likely agree that we have too much screen time. Atheists don't take the opposite, that we should stay inside alone on face book any more than theists do.

    I can tell you that my experience of fellowship, appreciation of nature and so on does not seem limited by my lack of belief. Nor do I think it does for atheist who once believed. Perhaps we could hear from them?

    • Doug Shaver

      I can tell you that my experience of fellowship, appreciation of nature and so on does not seem limited by my lack of belief. Nor do I think it does for atheist who once believed. Perhaps we could hear from them?

      It seems to me that I appreciate nature more than I did when I was Christian.

      I certainly appreciate it more than when I was an evangelical Christian committed to a belief in scriptural inerrancy. Nature was a problem for me in those days. I kept discovering all these apparent contradictions between what nature said and what the Bible said. To resolve them, I had to keep reinterpreting what the Bible said to make the contradictions go away, since there didn't seem to be any way to reinterpret nature.

      As a Christian, I did believe, especially after giving up the inerrancy dogma, that nature revealed something of God's power and majesty. But in hindsight, that seems less like being awed by nature and more like looking to nature for validation of my religion.

      • William Davis

        This has been my experience with most Christians. I appreciate nature much more than almost all Christians I know and love to study it. It's the "Bible" to me.
        Most of these Christians are the inerrancy type, sometimes it's amazing how I can accidentally step on toes by innocently discussing scientific knowledge about nature.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        You were instrumentalizing nature. When we instrumentalize anything, we stop being able to see it for what it is because it is now only there for some purpose we impose on it.

        • Phil Rimmer

          No. Profoundly wrong. Both, looking more closely at, and, stepping back to see in context, lose precisely nothing. These simply enrich. To believe nature is wonderful only if framed just so is deeply negligent. The Romantic poets, Byron, Coleridge, Shelley, Wordsworth were passionate for these augmented views, keenly interested in the doings of the Royal Society and the Royal Institution. Keats had a wavering moment with rainbows but this doesn't undo the bulk of his comments. (See "The Age of Wonder" by Richard Holmes.)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have no idea what you are talking about.

          • Phil Rimmer

            Science doesn't instrumentalise nature, it merely sees things in increasing detail and context. Paley's watch instrumentalises nature.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I agree that natural science tries to simply see what is the case in the natural world. Technology *does* necessarily instrumentalize nature.

            Faith minus faith does not equal science.

            What do you mean by "Gods instrumentalise us"?

          • Phil Rimmer

            "Technology *does* necessarily instrumentalize nature."

            No. I simply don't see this. You mean like the plough?

            God's "purpose" makes instruments of us (well...you).

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By technology instrumentalizing nature, I mean something (I hope) is completely non-controversial. We take aspects of nature and manipulate them to get a desired result.

          • Phil Rimmer

            Ah!

            We use nature.

            Agreed.

            Is this reductive of nature? Is a path a despoiling?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > Is this reductive of nature? Is a path a despoiling?

            Physics does reduce nature, right? It abstracts real things into mathematical points and relationships.

            Using nature does not require harming it.

          • Phil Rimmer

            So no longer on technology?

            "Physics does reduce nature, right?"

            No. Moving closer you see more and different. Moving away you see more and different. Rainbows are the product of properties of matter, meteorology, surface tension, Maxwell's EM radiation in differing media, quantum electrodynamics at the total internal reflection in the spheres, optics, psychologies of perception, cultural implications of colour. (Truly we each see differently in these matters. Our brains wire to specific experience and cultural need.) The narratives are rich and extend into many other experiences in nature. Nothing is unwoven or reduced only elaborated.

            So what is the problem with technology that is not also shared with other things that offer cheap easy hits of pleasure, like sugary fatty food or most of religion?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            God's "purpose" makes instruments of us (well...you).

            If I understand you, this is not the case for Catholicism: "[M]an, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for
            itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (Gaudium et apes 24).

            Instruments are not ends in themselves but man is an end in himself.

            Instruments cannot make gifts of themselves but man has freedom to give himself or not.

          • Phil Rimmer

            "but man is an end in himself."

            Unsaved?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ontologically an end in himself whether saved or not.

          • Phil Rimmer

            I fail to grasp how a created thing (even with two outcomes) is anything other than an instrument of its creator's gratification.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What makes you think Catholics think that God created the universe to get something out of it? Or that he needed something, so he created? Or that he needs man to do something for him?

          • Doug Shaver

            What makes you think Catholics think that God created the universe to get something out of it?

            If Catholics say that God created the universe but deny that he did so in order to get something he wanted, then whatever they're thinking, it doesn't seem coherent to me. An intelligent agent doesn't do something for no reason.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            > "An intelligent agent doesn't do something for no reason."

            I agree. It is just that I don't think that God does things out of need, in the sense that everything (?) we do we do out of or to fulfill some need. We are driven by our physical needs, our emotions and passions, and by goods we grasp intellectually and want to possess.

          • Doug Shaver

            It is just that I don't think that God does things out of need, in the sense that everything (?) we do we do out of or to fulfill some need.

            So, God has needs in a different sense than we have needs? Or does God have no needs in any sense?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            "Need" is a tricky word. I think it is safe to say from the point of view of Catholic dogma that creation is completely gratuitous, that is, completely a gift arising out of no need in God.

          • Doug Shaver

            Most words seem to get very tricky when they're applied to God.

            I get it that an entity like God could be pretty hard to describe using just the language of ordinary discourse. But in that case, whenever anybody purports to tell me something about him, I can't be sure what they're really trying to say about him, still less whether I have any reason to believe it.

          • Phil Rimmer

            He needed to create? Or was creation needless? A whim...

          • Phil Rimmer

            Are these Catholic accounts wrong or projections/wish thinking? They seem very common.

            "God created man to know, love and serve Him in this life so we can be happy with Him in the next." Dominican Sisters.

            "God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven." CatholiCity.com

            " God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." stpeterlist.com

            etc., etc.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A wise piano student puts himself under the authority and direction of his piano teacher not to be the teacher's slave but to fully develop his potential to play the piano. The Christian wants to be equally under the authority and direction of Christ in order to become a saint, that is, a person fully alive as an image of God. We think God wants this too.

            Sorry for the long quote but it is worth a read. This is from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            III. “The World Was Created for the Glory of God”

            293 Scripture and Tradition never cease to teach and celebrate this fundamental truth: “The world was made for the glory of God.”134 St. Bonaventure explains that God created all things “not to increase his glory, but to show it forth and to communicate it,”135 for God has no other reason for creating than his love and goodness: “Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened his hand.”136 The First Vatican Council explains: (337, 344, 1361, 759)

            This one, true God, of his own goodness and “almighty power,” not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel “and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and the corporeal....”137

            294 The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created. God made us “to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace,”138 for “the glory of God is man fully alive; moreover man’s life is the vision of God: if God’s revelation through creation has already obtained life for all the beings that dwell on earth, how much more will the Word’s manifestation of the Father obtain life for those who see God.”139 The ultimate purpose of creation is that God “who is the creator of all things may at last become ‘all in all,’ thus simultaneously assuring his own glory and our beatitude.”140 (2809, 1722, 1992)

            That statement "The glory of God is man fully alive" was written by St. Irenaeus in the second century, so it has been around for a bit.

          • Phil Rimmer

            So Newman has failed dismally to understand this?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Not at all. He perfectly understood it.

          • Phil Rimmer

            "I ask not to see. I ask not to know. I ask simply to be used."

            Not exactly the student you outlined, is he.

          • William Davis

            I was never impressed with all that talk of glory because it makes God seem like a vain emperor or something. Emperors have always been very concerned about their "glory". I would tend to think God would be above the human emotion of pride. Perhaps these things represent the best men have been able to come up with so far.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You reaction makes me think you have not read or understood the Catechism points, WD.

            Imagine not a vain Emperor but a truly good one whose one ambition was to elevate every one of his subjects as high as they could rise.

            This is what I take St. Irenaeus meant when he said "The glory of God is man fully alive."

          • William Davis

            The problem still is the word glory. A vain emperor would still want his subjects to do well because that would feed his own pride (who wants to be an emperor of a pathetic civilization). A good emperor might still do the same thing but for a very different reason, simply to help his subjects. This involves considering the subjects to be an end unto themselves. The vain emperor would consider helping them a utility goal, and only help them rise for his own glory. The difference is not in action, but in motivation.

            As an engineer, I consider it a source of pride when things I engineer turn out well. I don't look at people in this way. Does God look at us as individuals and ends on their own, or is all this just a utility goal for something else. Again, I think the whole thing is better off without the word "glory".

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Again, you appear not to have read to comments. God sees human beings as ends in themselves.

            Sorry the word "glory" bothers you but there is nothing I can do about that!

          • William Davis

            Again, you appear not to have read to comments. God sees human beings as ends in themselves.

            The problem is I have read the comments and understand them, I think you just don't understand what I'm getting across.

            In general, the claim "God sees human being as ends in themselves" has no basis in anything but what a few Church fathers have said. I find it highly problematic when such relatively baseless claims are presented as fact. Such lack of care demonstrates a lack of concern for the actual truth. The truth is no one has a clue how God sees man, assuming the existence of God. To claim otherwise seems like an exercise in pride itself.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The claim that God sees man as an end in himself is one for Catholics based on Divine Revelation and reason. There are all kinds of evidence and arguments to support the claim.

            Here is one:

            I can see with my own eyes of reason that I am an end in myself in my personhood and that I am not to be used as if I were an object. Every person who is psychologically healthy agrees with this. If God exists and he is wise he must see that fact better than I can so he must agree.

            That is an argument whose premise is self-evident (to me at least) and whose logic looks pretty solid to me.

          • William Davis

            It's entirely possible that God sees us as an end to some other goal. This would explain natural evil (volcanoes, disease, ect), and why God makes no effort to intervene on the behalf of those who suffer. The assumption that God thinks like us seems deeply flawed to me. That assumption (that what seems obviously true to us would also seem obviously true to God) is probably the core of our disagreement.

            If you think about how long the earth existed before man evolved (4.5 billion years), there must be some reason God allowed it to take so long, there also must be some reason he allows things to continue. It seems quite plausible that God would be much more interested in a much more intelligent species that we would eventually become (assuming we keep passing his survival test). Of course all of this is assuming such a being as God exists.
            In general the anthropic bias is hardwired into Christianity.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I can't agree with much of that!

          • William Davis

            I'm not saying any of that is true (so I didn't expect you to agree with it), I'm just saying we don't even know what's really going on in each others minds, much less the mind of God. 1 Corinthians 2

            7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,

            “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
            nor the human heart conceived,
            what God has prepared for those who love him”—

            10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I don't think your Scriptural citation actually supports your point.

            It is true that we cannot fully know the mind of God now (or maybe ever) but St. Paul's larger point is that God's hidden plan is now revealed in Christ and accessible to us through the Holy Spirit.

            This secret of God's wisdom is the Incarnation, Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost which makes this revelation available to us through the Church.

        • Doug Shaver

          I was told, and in those days I believed, that God was the imposer of that purpose on nature.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Nice article. Certainly, enjoying the beauty of nature and humanity is very much worthwhile. The weather is a little rainy, but that just makes it all the more likely that we will see plenty of rainbows today.

  • Kraker Jak

    Nature, according to Venerable Fulton Sheen, is the third book of God after the Old and New Testaments.

    Implication being from the Catholic perspective, that those who don't believe in god are somehow deficient or lacking in their appreciation of nature and beauty.

    • William Davis

      Pretty sure the order is wrong. I don't think anyone thinks the old and new testaments existed before nature. I'm guessing this is a freudian slip showing the author's internal mental prioritization ;) Us pesky naturalists put nature first mentally. If the scriptures don't agree with nature, the scriptures are wrong, not nature.

      • Kraker Jak

        I don't think anyone thinks the old and new testaments existed before nature.

        Can you please show me where this was said.....thanks WD

      • Michael Murray

        Surely they existed in the mind of God before creation ?

      • "Pretty sure the order is wrong. I don't think anyone thinks the old and new testaments existed before nature."

        Things can be first in significance without being first temporally...

        • William Davis

          I think, by definition, God is the creator of nature. He is not, by definition, the author of any text. Thus prioritizing a text over nature seems logically problematic.

          Even from a Christian worldview, first there was nature, then there was man, then writing, and over time the Bible. I just can't see any way that prioritizing scripture isn't problematic.

          • VicqRuiz

            I think, by definition, God is the creator of nature. He is not, by definition, the author of any text.

            Nails it.

    • "Implication being from the Catholic perspective, that those who don't believe in god are somehow deficient or lacking in their appreciation of nature and beauty."

      Deficient only because they can read the book but don't recognize the author.

      • William Davis

        I've read some very good anonymous writings. The lack of knowledge about the author has absolutely nothing to do with appreciating the book.
        I typically review the author before I read a book, especially non-fiction, as the author's credentials can be a guide to how reliable and accurate the book probably (but not necessarily) is. Third party reviews are also extremely helpful. Nature, of course, is a very unique kind of "book" so to speak.
        To continue this line of thought, the authorship of many books of the Bible are highly suspect, some are certainly even pseudoanonymous (to put it nicely). The Bible has an authorship problem that significantly harms it's credibility, in my opinion. It's one thing to write something anonymously, quite another to falsely claim to be someone you're not. Authorship is a big topic :)

      • Doug Shaver

        We're just not taking your word for it when you tell us who wrote the book.

  • Bob Bolondz

    What chapter and verse is Ebola in God's "Book of Nature"?

  • Doug Shaver

    Nonetheless, in this story Bradbury is something of a prophet. Enraptured as we are today with all the wonders of technology, we run the risk of forgetting the majesty of an evening stroll.

    Yeah, he prophesied that, but it wasn't exactly the point of his story. It ends with the police taking him into custody for "regressive tendencies." It was as much a warning about the enforcement of conformity as about failure to appreciate the joys of nature.

  • Doug Shaver

    The smartphone accompanies us everywhere. And when it accompanies us, what does it cause us to leave behind?

    It causes no one to leave anything behind. When people go places, they decide what they will take with them. We are all responsible for what we do with any of our technology.

    I believe that our screens are sometimes guilty of taking us away from beauty.

    The machine is . . . guilty? What a great way to avoid responsibility.

    it is the beauty of God that contains all, not the intelligence of man.

    I am quite aware that human intelligence does not contain all. I won't believe that anything else does contain all just because lots of people say so.

    Secondly, the internet allows us to be guilty of preferring trivia over truth

    The Internet had nothing to do with our preferences except to facilitate their indulgence. For people who preferred trivia to truth, it made trivia easier to find. For people who preferred truth, it made truth easier to find.

    Yet, how capable are we of asking and answering the questions that really matter?

    When I took Philosophy 101, the professor told the class that "Questions That Matter" was what the study of philosophy was all about. I think he had a good point.

    Such questions are only appropriately and fully explored in contemplation, conversation, and good books.

    Some of the best books ever written are available online now, and more with each passing day.

    When you read a book, you swim in the ocean of truth

    That depends entirely on the book. Some of them are badly polluted with intellectual toxins.

    No social media platform will ever be equivalent to the wonder of interpersonal interactions.

    There is no fitting substitute for a face to face conversation, for there we encounter another person in the fullest way that we can

    Of course. But just because A is better than B doesn't make B worthless, especially on those many occasions when A is not an available option.

    In short, go be human.

    We are most human when we are using our highest technology. We certainly can use it inappropriately, but if there is one thing our technology cannot do, it is to dehumanize us.

    • Martin Dober

      Thanks for all your comments. I agree with your emphasis on a person's responsibility for how he or she uses technology, but I also want to draw attention to the way that technology can influence us in subtle ways. And I also think that technology is very human, but I think that to be fully human is to have an appreciation for truths that are higher and deeper than technology. I would not say that we are most human when we use our highest technology but rather when we engage the "questions that matter" and when we flourish not just in our scientific pursuits but also in our philosophical and moral capacities. While technology has no power on its own to dehumanize us, we can use it in inhuman ways (e.g., nuclear warfare), which is why I believe that we have to appreciate the wonders of what we can do with technology but also be critical of some of its uses. Progress in technology must be matched with moral growth that can respond to new questions posed by new technologies.

      • I read Brave New World, Animal Farm, 1984, etc. as a teenager in the late fifties. I felt at the time, as I have during most of my life, that 'something was coming to an end.' Later in my life, I came across the writings of Martin Heidegger with respect to Technology. This is not a new development if we trace it' origin to the industrial revolution, etc. He compares many of the process of his time to what happened in the concentration camps in Germany, something with which he is/was very familiar. It is noteworthy that commentators have thus extended this analysis to the treatment of animals within the food industry, hospital care in some cases, (as with the elderly) etc., (depending of course, whether or not someone considers the reports to be extravagant or not, - which is something that indeed happens, as with climate change, another development of 'technology', etc.)

        Also, though, many post-modern philosophers, are taking note that language, for the first time in our (human) history is being considered more 'productive/valuable/precise' if it is the 'written word' that is considered to be basic, not the 'spoken word'. I shall leave it to your 'imagination' to think of possible cause and effect relationships if indeed, for the first time in history, the written word, predominates. I have a personal knowledge, through my daughter's career as a lawyer, for instance, that the 'new law', is more than paying lip-service to the effect of e-discovery on the law, and indeed that we are within a revolution that is only comparable to that produced by the Guggenheim press. And of course we have the NSA!!!!

      • William Davis

        “Moore’s Law of Mad Science: Every eighteen months, the minimum IQ necessary to destroy the world drops by one point.”

        — Eliezer Yudkowsky

        In other words, you have a point about the need for a moral growth in response to and along with technological progress :)

      • Doug Shaver

        I also think that technology is very human, but I think that to be fully human is to have an appreciation for truths that are higher and deeper than technology.

        Technology just exists. None of it is a truth for anything else to be higher or deeper than.

        I grant that the truths you refer to are of vital importance, and that those who fail to pursue them are greatly depriving themselves. But our condescension toward them is no more warranted than the condescension of America's European invaders toward the New World's aboriginal peoples. The difference between people with advanced technology and people with primitive technology is no more or less a difference of humanity than the difference between people who care deeply about philosophy and people who don't care at all about it.

        I devoutly wish that more people understood and appreciated science, and just as devoutly wish that more people understood and appreciated philosophy. But I do have some idea of why most people pay so little attention to them. I neglected both in my own youth. I was interested in science, but did not learn it in anything like the depth I now wish I had. As for philosophy, until quite late in my life I regarded it as simply a waste of time. The commission of such intellectual errors, though, is as much a part of being human as their avoidance. And so is the error of supposing that the avoidance of one mistake makes one more fully human than the avoidance of the other.

        There could be something to the idea of maximizing our humanity, but I think it a mistake to think that we can do that by focusing on any particular intellectual endeavor. If anything makes us special, it's the diversity of our abilities. In this regard, I fully agree with another science fiction writer, Robert A. Heinlein, who put the following words in the mouth of one of his characters, Lazarus Long:

        A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

        — Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love

        While technology has no power on its own to dehumanize us, we can use it in inhuman ways (e.g., nuclear warfare)

        There is nothing inhuman about warfare, and nothing about nuclear weapons makes it any different. Nuclear weapons don't kill more people than other weapons, they just large numbers of people a lot faster than any other method. Probably more people died in the bombing of Dresden than of Hiroshima, but over three days instead of a few seconds.

        I believe that we have to appreciate the wonders of what we can do with technology but also be critical of some of its uses.

        Of course, the costlier the mistakes, the harder we must try to avoid them, but we should be critical of how we do anything. The solution to misuse of technology is better use, not disuse.

        Progress in technology must be matched with moral growth that can respond to new questions posed by new technologies.

        I don't think there are any new moral questions. The questions that need answering are the same ones humans have wrestled with for their entire history.

      • Phil Rimmer

        The problem is not technology per se, but like cheap sugary, fatty food it delivers easy little pleasures that can distract us from more satisfying main course meals.

  • Michael Murray

    Last summer we had a 30 hour power outage in my suburb. It was really nice how the streets filled up with people walking. Gave the place a totally different feel.

  • Michael Murray

    When I read these kinds of article I wonder if the writers have any idea of what it was like growing up in the 70s in a small country town of 1200 people where the only library arrived weekly for a couple of hours in a small van.

    The internet and the immediate access it gives us to information and all the great books ever written is an invention that rivals the printing press in its enormity,

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I don't know about this line of argument anymore. We live inside our heads, although we get our input through our senses, which take information from outside ourselves, transform it into chemical and electrical information, and somehow in our brains we turn it back into images. Each of the five senses is already "like" a technological device.

    One can ignore people and nature as much by reading the newspaper as watching a TV or computer screen.

    Still, there are some troubling aspects in regard to youth being formed with this kind of technology. When you text, not only do you not see the person, you don't even hear his voice, so all that nonverbal communication is gone and the part of the brain that does only verbal interactions develops. But five years from now, maybe everyone will Skype or see little holograms of the people we communicate with over our phones.

  • Kraker Jak

    Is this all there is to Strange Notions?

  • Phil Rimmer

    I'm very sympathetic to this view.

    Humans have a lot of itches to scratch, great and small. Mostly these are aesthetic, some need or other, often shared, sometimes personal and all releasers of pleasure when we succumb and scratch away. Like the poor brain-wired rat getting its depreciating hit of dopamine with each button press, each effortless text and tweet substitutes many little and decreasing hits for some ever deferred and grander ones.

    Eating is another easy hit for many these days. No struggle for survival. Treats are cheap.

    Learning to stop with endless easy little hits so we may savour more of the big stuff is what we need to teach in schools these days.Lets relearn to defer petty gratification and make time to invest in the greater. The abiding pleasure of a country walk and most particularly with the i-Max eyes of the poet scientists like Humphry Davy, Erasmus Darwin et al., is one of the pinnacles of pleasure.

    Its stopped raining. Hurrah!