“The truth is, what I see frightens me.”
Seems like my day kept that circling in and around, from morning to night. I spent the morning with the Capitol Fellows, as I do every Monday. For three hours we think together about life and the world. Today their assignment was to bring an essay on two books, this week’s reading. I wanted them to read together Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book.
The first is a remarkably important book, looking at “what the internet is doing to our brains.” Not a Luddite for a moment, Carr examines the 50 years-later meaning of McLuhan’s “the medium is the message,” arguing that hyper-linking our way through the world is a shallower way of making sense of things. We just don’t go very deep, intellectually, socially, politically. We resist nuance and complexity, and prefer—in fact our brains require –a different way of reading, one that asks less of us. Across the board of life, we are content with pop icons.
The second is Peterson’s reflection on “lectio divina,” the age-old practice of meditative reading, of slow reading, the kind of reading that takes us to deeper places of the heart. I offered Kuyper’s 100 year-old volume of meditations, To Be Near Unto God, as an example. 110 times Kuyper, Prime Minister of the Netherlands at the time, wrote about a life of intimacy with God. No ghost-writer, no speech-writer, the words are the prime minister’s, from his own heart. If I was sentenced to the proverbial desert island, I would take Kuyper with me.
One thread of our conversation was about the info-glut character of our culture and world. So much to know, all the time. 24/7. And the irony is that the more we know, the more fearful we are; the more we know, the more paranoid we are; the more we know, the more suspicious we are. After billions spent on the last election, we are more divided than ever—and we know so much.
Traveling as I do week by week, going through the TSA’s of airports across America, I am always aware one more time of the reality that the more we know of each other, the more terrified we are. You might kill me; in fact you might kill all of us!
And then tonight, for a lark, Meg and I went to see the highly-praised new James Bond film, “Skyfall.” It passed my basic requirement, viz. it is a well-told story. There are moments of incredulity—but it is 007 after all. And there are editing misses, which always seem strange to me, given the money and time put into a film. But when all was said and done, it was the best of Bond.
And M, played by Judi Dench, offers us the weighty words, “The truth is, what I see frightens me.” Even in the fantastical world of Bond.