Category Archives: Culture

In Need of De-dragoning

Today I got to spend the day with my wife at her university. The roads were frightening, so I drove her in rather than sentencing her to the highways alone. While she sat in class, I did some marking and reading in the picturesque student area of Campion College. As I worked, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations going on nearby. One in particular caught my attention, and despite my attempts to shake it, I couldn’t. Two young women sat just down from my table, and talked for a couple of hours about a great many things. But as the minutes stretched on, and one hour turned into two, it became apparent that the content of their chatter wasn’t substance; it was nothing. To be more specific, it was an egocentric, preferential, stating of opinion that didn’t have any (helpful) shape or direction (or purpose).

Now, I’m being rather harsh here. I’m certainly no stranger to this sort of interaction. When speaking to another person, what is more natural or familiar than to speak about myself? It’s a basic mode of communication for individuals in relation to one another. As Gabriela, the nice lady with whom my sister and I stayed in Mexico, used to say, that sort of chatter is “siempre sobre mi” (“always about me”).

I suppose the conversation I overheard at Campion caught my attention because lately I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ call to discipleship. In the days of the first century, the basis of one’s life seemed to be in the family structure, and breaking ties with that structure seemed unwise and unthinkable. Today, I wonder if the basis of one’s life is no longer the family structure, but the self, the ego. “I” is the foundation on which everything that is achieved is mounted. I’m sure this was quite prevalent in Jesus’ day too, for Luke includes the emphatic “even your own life” to the list of relations we are to hate or renounce.

It’s undeniable that individualism drives our North American world these days. I guess I thought I’d come across different sorts of conversations while sitting in a Catholic college student area, in a school that boasts of classical learning. But what have I to boast? I’m just as egotistically driven as those two young women at Campion when it gets down to it. I realize that afresh each day as I live alongside my wife. There seems to be no greater task than that of divorcing myself from myself. It truly is a death, a daily death, that I must go through in order to rid myself of my own desperate grasp. As personal freedoms go, I don’t think there is anything quite so full of bondage as considering myself to hold the key to my own free will.

The obvious direction here is to turn to Jesus and ask for help. “Take hold of me and rip my self away as Aslan did for poor old dragoned Eustice, and grant me the freedom that exists only in total submission.”

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Living Offline – perhaps not a bad idea

The other day I watched the fairly new movie, “Surrogates,” in which everyone in the world experiences life through these machine-bodied surrogates, while the ‘operators’ remain in the safety of their homes.

I watched it because 1) I like science fiction and 2) Bruce Willis stars. I liked the movie. It had enough twists to keep you guessing, and the action was fairly strong throughout.

The most impacting line of the whole film, for me anyway, was spoken by the antagonist after he reveals his sinister plan to destroy the machines. He says, “Human beings weren’t meant to experience life through machines!”

How very true! When computers were created, they were to save us time (and paper), but nothing seems to consume our time each day quite so much as our many electronic devices. When I think about how many hours I spend on a computer when I have some spare time or a day off, I think I’d be embarrassed to reveal the number. I’m grateful for much of what I can accomplish from my home computer, like communication with people far away, online banking, purchasing books and other items, and even searching for journal articles and things like that. But everything in moderation. The ease with which anyone can administrate their life on a computer, on the internet, is helpful. But if a person’s use of these things isn’t managed or moderated, it can easily become a colossal waste of time.

No wonder people back a century had such greater knowledge of things like philosophy, Latin, and Greek. They had no ‘time saving devices’ to eat up their every day.

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