In a Liquid Modern world, things are changing so quickly that it begins to be pointless to do analysis because the next point has been made before you get a chance to process– like a classroom filled with talkative people each of whom want to get their point in before the prior person talking stops, so that none of the points can really be thought through. It is postmodern, in that there is no one center, no one basis to give a cohesive sense of a purpose or direction. There is no one news source, no one authoritative commentator, no one way of thinking about the issues which gets it all right.
We live in this world financially– the Federal Reserve doesn’t even know for sure what to do next, we aren’t sure which bank or institution will survive into next year. People who do have a little money don’t know where to put it, because its not clear if commodities will go up more, or if stocks will recover, or if the bonds are still a safer haven. I’m also not sure if JC Pennies will continue, or Hostess Twinkies for that matter (both companies are in dire financial straits).
But as if those insecurities in the face of change weren’t enough, I’m not sure the company who manufactured and services my Blackberry phone will exist in a year. My friends who were cutting edge with the first I-phone wouldn’t be caught dead with a first generation one now… (I still like to call my blackberry my ‘computer-phone’– much to my wifes chagrin).
In the introduction to The Best American Essay’s 2007, guest editor David Foster Wallace introduces the label “Total Noise,” which he uses to describe the yowling multitude of voices that surround the average American in our technology and media driven society.
“-a rate of consumption which tends to level everything out into an undifferentiated mass of high-quality description and trenchant reflection that becomes both numbing and euphoric, a kind of Total Noise that’s also the sound of our U.S. culture right now, a culture and volume of info and spin and rhetoric and context that I know I’m not alone in finding too much to even absorb, much less try to make sense of or organize into any kind of triage of saliency or value. such basic absorption, organization, and triage used to be what was required of an educated adult, a.k.a. an informed citizen—at least that’s what I got taught. Suffice it here to say that the requirements now seem different.” (xiv)
There are multiple problems with getting knowledge– one has always been trying to get to the truth of the matter– and to get past the spins and biases of various outlets. But the notion of getting to the real truth can seem almost quaint when we face a different challenge altogether– the challenge of getting too much information.
I have three computers, and still as of yet have not mastered an intelligent way to organize and coallate my various files. I have some in one place, some in another, and yet others in a third place. Its sometimes just dumb luck that I happen to be at the right computer when I need a particular file, otherwise I have to wait til I get to school, or get home, or find my laptop, etc.
This computer problem is similar to my magazine article problem– so many good articles, in so many various magazines– to try to slow down enough to keep track of them and use them intelligently would slow me down from finding new ones– just keeping up with the daily deluge of information is difficult. I get news from all kinds of sources. There is so much information– so much to sort through, make sense of, and so many choices to make as to what to pay attention to…
This last fall I started getting the Wall Street Journal, which has depressing news at times anyway, but it started to make me feel a bit overwhelmed with information– because along with the WSJ I get the New Yorker, Bloombergs Businessweek, Fortune, Kiplingers, National Geographic, Time, Successful Farming (go figure) and about 5 other magazines– this on top of whatever news I happen to find on yahoo and from the radio (primarily NPR). And I am not a new junkie– I actually don’t spend that much of my day seeking this stuff out– but I am overwhelmed by the knowledge to try to process and coalese into something useful.
Techology is obviously changing so quickly that one can hardly keep up. And this constant continuous ongoing neverending stream of more images, more knowledge, more youtube videos, more opportunities, more info to sythesize makes the task of synthesizing itself seem quaint.
The constancy in the midst of this is sometime hard to find, and we can begin to feel that the change is our enemy. Our access to information is nearly total now– we have total access. We can watch many seasons of our favorite TV shows online for free at will, or watch any movie we want online, or read newpapers from Tehran or Dehli.
But we cannot possibly process and synthesize all of this information. We can make the best of it– try to sort through it like getting whatever we can out of a house that is on fire– quickly, and without time to make thoughtful reasoned decisions. We don’t have much time before we have to leave these thoughts behind so we can try to sort through all the information about to come at us…
Its an ongoing situation– and of course on can stop by just getting off the grid– and in many cases, not knowing the latest news probably won’t hurt you too much.
In general, life is shifting very quickly. Things are not the same as they were, and they will not be the way they are right now for long. Of course this has always been an issue throughout history, but certainly not at this rate of speed.
In such a setting, it is easy to feel that whatever one does, one will always be too late, because as soon as you catch what is contemporary, it will become passe. This in turn can lead you to feel the perpetual triviality of what you are pursuing, and attempting to ‘get right’. Rather than value knowledge of the past and of tradition, such a culture of change values the ability to forget and move on– to the next new paradigm– which in turn must quickly be forgotten and moved on from…
Still, in the midst of these changes, it seems that some fundamental things do not change. Humans are still fundamentally in need of some stability, despite all the superficial changes going on around us. It doesn’t matter how much technology and financial security changes, much of life’s fundamental needs and fundamental truths remain. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by insecurity, by things we don’t understand or can’t control. But the age-old truth is still found in basic teachings of Scripture: “Be still and know that I am God” it says in Scripture. “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your ways straight.”
Living in such an age of insecurity, where the past is not so likely to help us exactly know how to determine our future course of action, we are priviledged to be forced to not rely on our own understanding. We have the choice: to either fret and fear for our future, or to entrust it somehow to God, and to rest in a hope that God will provide.
This was the way of Abraham, not knowing where he was going. It was the way of Noah, seeing only rising waters as he got on his homemade ark. It is the way of Moses, leading his people into a promised land which he would not himself encounter. It is the way of Christ, who laid down his life for us all. It was the way of the disciples, who devoted themselves in hope to the cause of Christ.
As we face the unkown and the apparently endlessly changing events which make our future unclear and unknown, may we seek to rest in God and trust in God’s providing what we need.
May God have mercy on us all.