Archive for November 2008

End of Our Work as We Know It

November 6, 2008

There has been some kind of major disruption of the internet service provided through our university for about three days that made my normal work activities very difficult. It is interesting, as I think on it today (with fully restored service), how easy it is to have the lifeline cut when one works primarily in the online environment. While I was able to read student and colleague posts in my course sites, the basic functioning that we take for granted, such as changing pages on a website, became so slow as to render normal work practically impossible. This brings up several thoughts, some related to our course objectives and some not.

In the first place, in the online environment I know that “absence does not make the heart grow fonder”. I know from my own experience that I get frustrated when I send messages via electronic means and don’t get a response. I assume others do as well. So, regardless of the cause, when we are not online, in the space that we expect others to be in, we cannot interact; and therefore communication becomes strained or nonexistent. The two-edged sword of distant communication, distant learning and distant relationships is quite clear. Maintaining ties is enhanced through contemporary technological tools, but are maintained on the thin line of radio waves and fiber optic cables; both of which are susceptible to disruptions of one sort or the other.

The second thought I have had along these lines harkens back to the Y2K scare and some of the rhetoric and reflection that occurred in the lead-up to that “fateful” moment. Divide the entire pre-Y2K world population into three groups: a) the totally ignorant, b) those convinced that the it was “the end of the world as we know it“, and c) and those who could care less. Of those of us who fell into the second group, there were varying degrees of response and reaction. I would say that there were three basic types of folks who fell into this group. We had the, “my goodness, the whole system is going to collapse so I am going to go to a cabin in the woods, grow my own food, stockpile toilet paper and bottled water and have my guns to protect my family” folks. We had the “we are all going to hell anyway, so why should I be concerned too much about whether it happens now or later” group. And finally, we had the, “we are all in this together and the only way to plan for an emergency of the size and scope that is being postulated is to work together with others in our communities (family, georgraphy, faith, etc.) to ensure that we all take care of one another”.

It seems to me that the third group had it right. While Y2k did not have the impact as was thought by many, those folks that realized that we are all connected in this life and on this world were on the right track. We have always been interconnected as humanity, through blood, through history, through psychology, through our common conditions and our common origin. Yet, increasingly we recognize, through the advancing sophistication and pervasive nature of our information and computing technologies how truly inter-related and interdependent we are. I don’t believe that any of us are an island. Those of us who follow Christ must go beyond accepting the body language of the scriptures as merely a nice metaphor, but rather as a dead-on accurate representation of the truth. We are genetically linked, biologically bound, socially intertwined, there is no escaping it. And to my way of thinking, the body of Christ can be viewed as a body within a body, a body of transformed cells within the larger body of humanity. And unlike cancer, our genetic programming is not to destroy our “host”, but to transform it in similar fashion as we have been, by providing the conduits, the channels, the connecting points through which the genius, the creativity, the beauty, the awesome wonder of our Creator can pass through and make connection with all of humanity.

Let us not shy away from the challenges of distance (spatial, cultural and conceptual). Let us embrace the use of all of our fortitude, patience, humility; as well as the gifts and talents we have been blessed with to refine, expand, improve and beautify our channels and conduits. Whether these channels be intellectual, familial, collegial, technological, we must recognize the marvelous opportunity we have to partner with God in the work of advancing his purposes in this world. May we be able to say with confidence and joy, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”!