Reading Leonard Sweet's Viral: Part 3

As I've been reading Leonard Sweet's Viral, I've also been reading In the Plex, which is basically a history of Google. So, coming to the Google section, I was eager to see how Len would handle Google's place in the spiritual world.

I think I struggled with this section because much of it crafted as a warning for us digital natives. And, of course, being who I am I naturally rebel. I want to shout out "but look at all the good things! Look what Google can do for us!"

A, literally, life-changing quote from a different book, "Made to Stick," by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:

...imagine what it’s like for the listeners to hear isolated taps rather than a song. This is the Curse of Knowledge. Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has “cursed” us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.
I think this section would have benefitted from presuming that people didn't already see the great things Google can do for the Church. The shift from Twitter being such a blessing for the Kingdom to two chapters on the blind spots that us digital natives need to watch out for was a bit stark. Sometimes, it what seems obvious to us may be an undiscovered country for others. Len's message in this section is essential, and true, and challenging to me. But, in truth, I would have loved to see him come back with some thoughts on what can the church do now, now that it has a world of information a few keywords away.
That being said...
Wow. Len nails it with the potential blind spots. The core message here is that we need to embrace images and emotions, not rely soley on facts and figures. My favorite quote from the book so far is in this chapter:
- The Bible is not a text but a telling, a series of diviine stores enriched by one another and reborn when they are retold.
That's the Bible that I read, the discoveries I love to connect. Whenever I teach the Word, I find that the most memorable and applicable moments are when new connections are made in scripture. That is just one of the many reasons living in a Google age can be so powerful for the church... we have the ability to discover connections like never before (cue plug for, a project I work on, where we're able to automatically feed information relevant to whatever verse you're reading).
This section ends with an passionate - borderling desperate (in a good way!) - please for Googlers/digital natives to embrace poetry. Not to just read and study it... but to have it written on our hearts and minds. To have poetry be a part of our vernacular. Being a digital native, I know what the problem is. We don't memorize... we don't need to. Because of Google, everything is a search bar away. And that's the problem, one that Len accurately articulates.
Poetry is the antidote to search term knowledge. Poetry is the one thing that a search engine can't help us understand better; poetry requires a life engine. It requires heart ache and joy and color and breathe and silence. Poetry neccessitates heart, the one thing that Google's millions of servers will never have.
Len is right to warn us: digital natives, we must not lose story or images or life. We must not lose heart if we want to share the Good News of love. Or, even more so, if we want to love. Google's serach engine simply won't help there. As Len says:
- Google nudges me to see the flame where I'd oterh wise be blind even to the glow.
Google helps us in all manner or ways... but we still are ones who bring the passion and the faith. And the story.
A few other quotes I underlined from this section:
- In the postmodern erea, there is no debate about the name of the world's unrivaled know-it-all: it's Google.
- [Googlers] are not idle dreamers; they act on visions and turn ideas and possibilities into reality.
- The way forward is less one of daisy-strewn paths of scientific progress than tempting paths of pathologies masquerading as "Way forward" and road-bombs of ruin lurking aroud every turn.
- The great god Google is not God. But Google may very well be consulted as much as the gods were in premodern times.
- We've come a long wasy from the days of Duke Humfry, who donated more than five hundred books to Oxford University between 1439 and 1444. Oxford fixed each book in place by chains, so valuable was each volume.
- Jesus is all about metahpor and sotry, not a list or a formula. Think about his teaching method. He used metaphors, paradox, parables, and stories, and - at times - even seeming nonsense to convery the deepest and most precious trusts ever communicataed. And not just a couple of times, as if by accident, but time and again.
- It would be like asking Emily Dickinson to write an instruction manual for assembling a bicycle.
- Jesus was crucified not for being a bad theologian, but for being a compelling communicator of God's kingdom and extremely good at telling stories that subverted establishment law and order.
- To read the Bible for knowledge is tiresome. To read the Bible as docudrama is boring. To read the Bible as a book of rules is deadening. But to read the Bible as a love letter from a Friend, and to meet that Friend in the text of Scripture, is to pack your bags for a lifelong journey.
- Jesus is interactive. If he is just talking to himself, what's the point?
- The problem with some of the people who most strenuously defend the Bible's honor is that they never really "read" it. Instead, the reference it.
- Googlers can't just sit there and read or watch. They are wired to participate: tweet, blog, post, text, twitpic, and a lot more.
- What happens when we focus more on the properties and principles of religion than the poetry of religion?
- The more our home pages keep us up-to-the-second on what is happening, and our pundits and blogs keep us up-to-date on what officially happened, the more we need to be poets. It is poetry that tells us what actually happened or what ought to have happened.
- The more we read words and then throw away what we read like peanut shells, the more we need to be poets.
- In fact, the Vietnamese and Chinese have the same proverb that makes an appeal to poetry as the final authority: "And there's a poem to prove it too."