What was once an occasional musical diversion became a compulsive obsession. Now I have my iTunes in my iMac for my iPod in my iWorld. It’s Narcissus heaven: we’ve finally put the “i” into Me...I am amazed at the clarity with which this author puts his finger on the insipid problem with technology in a market-driven, individualist society. Necessity has long since ceased to be the mother of invention (at least, in this country). Rather, convenience, expedience, and pleasure are the mothers of invention these days. Of all the research and design dollars spent in the United States, I wonder how much is spent on anything that might be called necessity. Compare that with the amount of recreational money used to research and design devices for entertainment, self-gratification, and escapism?
...It wouldn’t be so worrying if it weren’t part of something even bigger. Americans are beginning to narrow their lives.
You get your news from your favourite blogs, the ones that won’t challenge your view of the world. You tune into a satellite radio service that also aims directly at a small market — for new age fanatics, liberal talk or Christian rock. Television is all cable. Culture is all subculture. Your cell phones can receive e-mail feeds of your favourite blogger’s latest thoughts — seconds after he has posted them — get sports scores for your team or stock quotes of your portfolio.
Technology has given us a universe entirely for ourselves — where the serendipity of meeting a new stranger, hearing a piece of music we would never choose for ourselves or an opinion that might force us to change our mind about something are all effectively banished.
One wonders if all public interaction ceases with the simple addition of an MP3 player, then what will it do to consumers to pull a shiny new immersive virtual reality deck off the shelves of Walmart 2020?
The important question raised by Sullivan is this: if human beings are allowed to create their own environments, will that environment help or harm them? Taken further, does complete control over the environment make a person more or less human? If, as Sullivan suggests, people retreat more and more into their own tribal subcultures, then what happens to humanity in the process?
Dwayne recently wrote about C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. Sullivan's article reminds me of another work by C. S. Lewis, called the Problem of Pain, in which he explores the subject of hell. If a person needs the radical transformation offered by Jesus Christ in order to experience and contribute to the greatness of heaven, then a person who chooses to refuse the offer of that transformation is then radically left to himself. Lewis thinks this is an excellent depiction of hell.
His take on it is the logical extension of Sullivan's narcissistic iPod world: once the life-giving hand of God is refused finally and utterly for all eternity, the human is wholly given over to its selfish, internally-focused desires, its preoccupations with self-gratification, and its utter contempt for the needs and desires of the world around it. If heaven is the place where truest unity, joy, and love can be found in infinite abundance, amidst a community of other transformed humans and God himself, then hell is where the human is left untransformed and the Hand of Mercy is forever removed. Man is left alone in the universe of his own creation. A terrible fate indeed.