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Shaped by Technology

If there is one aspect that has had the greatest impact on our time, it is technology. Whether we like it or not the human story has and is being radically transformed by technology. Well, some of you may say that it is not true of you. Really?

We may label only the tablet PC, computer or smartphone as technology; but actually the cell-phone we use, the books and newspaper that we read and even this broadcast that you are listening to are the product of technology. It is just that every technology has its time and then another technology replaces it. There was a time when people used to read news on a broadsheet. . . which moved on to radio. . . and then to the television. . . and now for many news is accessed on the internet. And every technology has had its impact on us.

Take the time when people used to get their news only on the newspaper. They would wait for the newspaper delivery boy to know what happened in their locality yesterday, the country a couple of days ago and the world in the last few days. With the advent of the television age the delivery boy did not play such an important part in our lives – we just had to gather around the television at the time of the evening news and pronto – global news was downloaded on us!!

But with the arrival of the internet age, we can access news when it is convenient to us … and not only that – we can even post our own views on Twitter, put our photographs and personal news stories on our Facebook pages – and guess what – we are not just consuming news – we are also ‘the news’. . . At least for those to whom it matters.

Is that not really a paradigm shift? From the newspaper delivery boy bringing news to us, to yourself being newsmakers in a world of our making.

Looking back at history we see this with every technology that has come our way – like the simple wrist watch on our hand.

The mechanical clock, which came into common use in the 14th century, provides a compelling example. In the book ‘Technics and Civilization’, the historian and cultural critic Lewis Mumford described how the clock “disassociated time from human events and helped create the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences.”

Sushil lived in the 12th Century – way before the invention of the mechanical clock. He would wake-up when daylight poured in through the windows. His life followed a pattern. After a leisurely breakfast he headed out to the fields to a day of work returning for lunch and a siesta when it became very hot.

Today, Aditya, a descendent of Sushil wakes up to an alarm, rushing through a sandwich-breakfast to catch a train that leaves at 7:57 to reach office before 9. He has a great appetite normally but he cannot eat till his lunch break at 1.

Our natural bodily responses and signals have now been made subservient or tuned to our clocks. The “abstract framework of divided time” has became “the point of reference for both action and thought.” The clock’s methodical ticking helped bring into being the scientific mind and the scientific man, but it also took something away.

Moses who lived around 40 centuries earlier led his people from a land of enslavement to freedom. While they were escaping he suddenly found that their enemies were following them and the Red sea ahead. Miraculously the Red sea parted so that they could escape through it.

“Nine-year-old Danny came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild stallion. When he got home his mother asked him what he had learned in Sunday School. ‘Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!’ His father looked down, smiled, and asked him to tell him some more of the story.

‘Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased them. So the Israelites sped fast as they could on their SUV’s until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army on their armoured carriers were gettin’ closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptian lines. While that was happening, the Israeli Navy built a pontoon bridge across the red

then the air force knocked out the pontoon bridge too so that the Egyptians could not follow them to the other side!’

By now dad was shocked. ‘Is that the way they taught you the story?’

‘Well, no, not exactly,’ Danny admitted hesitantly ‘but if I told it to you the way they told it to us, you’d never believe it, Dad.’

With childlike innocence the little guy put his finger on the pulse of our sophisticated adult world – a world where technology has replaced God. Technology has definitely made it easier to get closer to God, but often it is the other way around. The Bible was available only on scrolls and parchments, and they were very few and also bulky to port around. With the invention by Guttenburg of the printing press the Book could be multiplied easily and also carried easily. Today we can have the Bible, and as many other study resources not only on our laptops but even on our tablets and cell phones.

The Apostle John tells something very profound: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God did not send an internet profile, e-mail, or an sms, but sent His Son who lived among us. That is the incarnation and that is what we are called to. We can surely use the cell phone, internet and other tech devices to complement the need for reaching and touching lives, but we cannot allow those to replace our lives in the real world.

Maybe you want to end with resolutions you can take on not letting technology be your master? Ok! Here goes;

  1. I will not have a conversation on the cell phone when I am with another person. At worst, I will briefly take the call and tell the person on the other end that I am with someone and would call back later. Oh, yes I am pretty good with sms and can type one without looking at the keypad, but I will show respect by not doing even that. Yes, of course that includes ‘twittering’. And of course, iPods or mp3 players are a strict no-no!
  2. Gosh! Caller id? That can sometimes be quite a nuisance. But Yes!, I will remember to call back, if I have not taken a call. I will treat all who have tried to contact me as of equal importance.
  3. I will switch of my cell phone when at prayer, a meeting or sleeping. I can put my confidence in God – that He will not allow me to miss an important call. And, of course, I could also subscribe to ‘missed call alerts’. (Or at the bare minimum, at least on silent?)
  4. I will surely reply to, or acknowledge every sms and e-mail at the earliest. Further, I will not send an sms or e-mail when I can talk to a person over the phone or meet personally. I will not put efficiency over intimacy.
  5. Surely it helps to connect with friends using social web-sites. I will try to be personal and ‘myself’ in all my relationships when on these sites. I have not forgotten that my parents often used to tell me to ‘behave myself’ – and no better place than the internet to try it. I will not forge a false identity. Nevertheless, I will not assume that because I have spent time on the networking sites (Facebook, Orkut, Twitter…) I have spent time with people. Lonely people and those who are ill still need my time and I would let them hear the sound of my voice, feel my touch and experience my care. Yes, it may include my close family and friends too who just need my time.
  6. I take responsibility for every text message or e-mail that I send. I will not simply keep forwarding these if I do not think that it is of value to the other person. Also, I will not forward an sms or an e-mail without confirming the veracity of the claims it makes. I am embarrassed that I forwarded the messages that said that ‘Dara Singh of the Steins’ notoriety was taking baptism without cross checking. And, yes I have not forgotten that sms ‘about some Christian Missionaries who were about to be executed by the Taliban’. I will let people know that my word can be trusted and I will not be a rumour monger since my Lord has commanded me to let my ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and my ‘no’ be ‘no’.



About the Author :

Cyril serves with RZIM as the Chief Training Officer. He has worked in the Information Technology and Airline industry prior to this and the family has lived in the cities of Nasik, Delhi and now Mumbai.

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