Is Life as We've Know It Over?
Generation Net - Elsewhere USA & Obama's BlackberryI'm impassioned by thinking about how the world is changing through the use of technology, new ways of understanding reality and our experience of community. Things are speeding up more and more yet our world seems to be falling apart faster and faster. The way we communicate is radically different than it was 5 years ago, let alone 10 or 20 years ago. Yesterday I was at a church meeting during which I communicated with people face to face, through the written word, via text messages, live Twittering feed reflecting on the meeting during the meeting, chatted with someone in Philadelphia about my meeting in Oakland via Facebook, checked in with someone via cell phone, emailed France and browsed the agenda of the meeting on the internet - all within the space of 3 hours in one physical building site context. Was I communicating with others or communicating at them? I came home and then blogged, facebooked and emailed while I ate cookies, read Newsweek and watched the Daily Show on our Tivo. Things are changing? But is it for the better?
I read a helpful book by Don Tapscott about the changing nature of our culture. Grown Up Digital points to the emergence of the Net Generation (or Milliennials or Generation Y) which outnumbers the Baby Boomers [who have long set the tone for our culture] and is already making a huge transformation in and upon our culture, economy, social structures, educational system and political power (he theorizes that it's most evident in President Obama's election) and that we ain't seen nothing yet. He had a thoughtful interview on Talk of the Nation on election day [link]. Here are 2 pages from books (click on them to expand them) talking about the 8 characteristics of the Net Generation. I also heard a great interview with Dalton Conley on Talk of the Nation [link] regarding his recent book Elsewhere USA, which talks about the ways in which societal/cultural/technological changes are transforming the way we live, blurring the lines between work and leisure, public and private, and altering the way we parent. It's even apparent in this week's Newsweek article on President Obama's Blackberry. [Will the Blackberry Sink the Presidency?]
I'm not into change for the sake of change, yet it does seem that our culture has not only changed, we're in the midst of a massive shift (it's up to you to decide if it's emerging or already done). I wonder about my own life and context: in particular work as a pastor in a church. My work is about communication: sharing hope, teaching and empowering others to think theologically about life, building community, organizing community and accompanying others in grief and mourning. Is that changing? Is my life changing in terms of the border between work and leisure? I find I easily slip into the pattern of always working, checking my Iphone each time an email comes in, cruising facebook to always be "in touch." Are we being drawn into incessant doing and communication? Or are these transformations helpful, empowering news ways of organizing, being together and relating? Does it have to be an either/or situation or can it be a both/and one? I do see that the way we "do" church is increasingly ineffective (or less effective): one person talking to others about God. People in my congregation seem to most effectively respond to a dialogue, when a sermon is about participation, identifying the universal question we share and empowering each of us to dive into it, to reflect from it and to grow spiritually as individuals and a community. This happens not just in a cartesian, 3 point sermon - but most often times in the children's time, at the communion table, in diverse rituals and in particular in the times in which we share our prayers/comments with one another. We're changing. Yet we often proclaim that the church can't change. It has to be our bedrock and anchor, the unchanging thing in the chaos of constant change. We universally affirm that to be alive means that we're growing, changing and evolving. Yet when it comes to God and church maybe we prefer ones that aren't growing (meaning that they're dead) because they make us feel better?