On Monday morning I biked from Pilsen to Hyde Park. It was a pleasant ride. The return journey was taxing, though, since my legs were tired and—thanks to a late lunch—were competing with my stomach for oxygen. About halfway through the ride, on one of the Lake Shore Path’s many curves, I glanced over my shoulder: Not three feet behind me was another cyclist! Perhaps he’s about to pass me, I thought. But when I looked at the ground a minute later I saw a shadow in the grass, immediately behind my own. Another minute, another glance; I was beginning to feel unsettled. Just then the biker pulled ahead. But not far ahead. Did he mean for me to draft behind him? Was he returning the favor? I decided to see. As soon as I’d entered the pocket of air behind the stranger’s bike I felt the difference. I hardly needed to pedal. I breezed behind him for a mile and then we switched positions again. A little later on we switched once more. Each time I led I wasn’t sure if the stranger was still there. The only sign of his presence, when I cared to sneak a glance, was the shadow gliding beside me in the grass.
We biked like that for a few miles. The situation reminded me of biology class and of the symbiotic relationships that occasionally spring up between organisms of different species. As my turn off approached I turned to say goodbye to the stranger, to make this a human interaction, but there was no one there.
1. Social media are the fidget spinners of the soul.
2. Each social media platform is a drug we self-prescribe and consume in order to regulate our emotional life, and we are constantly experimenting with the cocktail.
3. Law of Digital Relativity: Perception of space and time is relative to the digital density of the observer’s experience.
4. Affect overload is a more serious problem than information overload. The product of both is moral apathy and mental exhaustion.
5. While text and image flourish online, the psycho-dynamics of digital culture are most akin to those of oral cultures (per Walter Ong).
6. Just as the consumer economy was boundless in its power to commodify, so the attention economy is boundless in its power to render reality standing reserve for the project of identity construction/performance. The two processes, of course, are not unrelated.
7. In the attention economy, strategic silence is power. But, because of the above, it is also a deeply demanding practice of self-denial.
8. Virtue is self-forgetting. The structures of social media make it impossible to forget yourself.
The idea that God’s causality could interfere with my freedom can only arise from an idolatrous notion of God as a very large and powerful creature—a part of the world. We see an ascending scale of powerful causes. The more powerful the cause, the more difference it makes. And we are inclined to locate God at the top of the scale, and to imagine that he makes the most difference of all. But God does not make the most difference. He makes, if you like, all the difference—which is the same as making no difference at all. So far as the kind of world we have is concerned, the atheist and the theist will expect to see exactly the same features. The only difference is that if the atheist were right the question would not arise—indeed, the atheist would not arise.
—Herbert McCabe (Faith Within Reason, 76)
I talked about this a bit in this post, but McCabe says it better. This point comes up in preaching and popular theology all the time, but its most egregious iteration is in worship music. I would be very happy to never again have to sing that God is better and bigger and stronger. I understand the sentiment, of course, but it begins to sound like a Kanye West song.
John Wilson is at it again! Editing, that is. His new magazine, Education and Culture, is up and running. Among the moving parts of his new endeavor are names familiar to readers of his previous, much beloved publication, Books & Culture. One is my former professor Alan Jacobs. Here’s a snippet of his review of The Restless Clock: