Monday of the Fourth Week of Advent
Since the 1990s, but especially in the past year, a number of scientists, communications theorists, and journalists have tossed around the idea that the internet may be humanity working out, through technology, the reality that Pierre Tielhard de Chardin foresaw in his idea of the noosphere, a sort of worldwide union of “human reflection, conscious souls, and love.” This is a curious proposition, and a troubling one; I cannot say whether Teilhard de Chardin would have agreed. We can agree, though, that today the internet unites us in ways that he could only dream of (and maybe did). You are probably reading this reflection “on the internet” in some way, or at least it passed through the internet on its way to you. But how has this internet/noosphere united us?
When we are thrown together in our “developed” world, say in a café or a supermarket checkout line, we may pull out our internet-connected devices and fix our gaze upon them, perhaps out of an unacknowledged fear of feeling unconnected, out of the loop, bored, alone. And so we isolate ourselves from the people around us as we speed type messages on tiny screens, waiting to be served, alone. We wait for “little bits of joy” to pop up, and they do: behold a notification—a message from someone across the room—pops up at the top of the screen! It is a one character emoji, feigning depth in hyperbolic terms. These superficially deep but yet profoundly empty tokens of “love” keep us going. Can there be any place for God in this “noosphere?” Can the God of Jesus Christ surprise me with a notification at the top of my screen, which I need only swipe down to send a reply, before moving on to the next god?
“Hark!” The Lord’s language seems so out of place in our noosphere, our ideal world. But our Lord is not ideal. He is “like a gazelle or a young stag;” “here he comes springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.” Look up from your phone! Look beside you. “Here he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices.” You think that you’ve been standing there, “communicating” with the “world” on your little screen, but you’ve been lulled to sleep by empty platitudes. The Lord beckons you to life: “arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” (Song of Songs 2:8-10) You stop in your tracks. Though you revel in your 983 “friends,” not to mention the 42 “likes” you got in the last ten minutes, you wonder, “can He really be speaking to me?” Deep down, you know that though “you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’” in reality, “you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17). And yet, it is True—you are His beloved one, His beautiful one—because the One who speaks it is Love and Beauty. “He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love, he will sing joyfully because of you, as one sings at festivals” (Zeph 3:17f). Hark!