Saturday, June 26, 2010
Some people think the disaster proves we need more government oversight of industry. Some claim that this is the turning point for the environmental movement, a salient visual reminder of the consequences of industrialism. Others blame the government for the confusing response. There's plenty of blame to go around, sure, but is now the time to be trumpeting the blame so loudly when real peoples lives are, to put it mildly, in upheaval?
I think the oil spill further reveals the ethical problem facing America and it's leaders. From a macro to a micro level, ethics is eschewed as a tangential issue of little relevance to a society which has more to worry about than what is right and wrong. After all we're on the cusp of technological breakthroughs and business innovation. Who has time to stop and wonder if what we so blatantly term "progress" is actually the right kind of progress?
We don't need, as some would assert, to harken back to our "Christian roots" at the founding of our country. The fact is, there was very little that was Christian about our founding, unless you equate Christianity with a kind of therapeutic moral deism. Rather, we need individuals inside the Church to take civic responsibility seriously. We don't need to "take back the government", we just need people who will actually listen, discuss, and be willing to come up with smart solutions to tough problems.
The gulf oil spill is a complicated mess, too complicated to neatly place blame on one side or the other. It shows, however, that we as a society have more to do in terms of catching up morally and ethically to the vast complexity of technology that we let rule our lives.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
I crave beauty. As I spend more time with technology, gadgets, and web development strategies, I am constantly aware of a nagging urge to be in the presence of beauty. The natural world is alive in a way that exudes beauty and energy. Technology only approximates beauty. It attempts to mimic what we find everywhere in nature.
I've been researching design over the past few weeks, looking at it mathematically, conceptually, visually, and ideologically, asking the question: “what makes something beautiful?” One thing has become clear throughout my research: God is the ultimate designer, and anything we humans design is nothing if not a distant approximation of what he has already done. Technology is driven by functionality on one side, but equally as important it is driven by design. If something doesn't both feel right and work right, it's hard for that piece of technology to gain widespread use. From cars to cell phones, design and functionality are the two key principles driving technology.
But the more time you spend with technology, the more lackluster it becomes in comparison with the grandeur of God's created world. There are constant annoyances, bugs, caveats, and problems with every single piece of created technology. Show me, though, one design or functionality flaw in an oak tree. What about a duck? Each thing that God created was and is perfectly designed for the role for which it was created.
I see so much arrogance and greed in the world of technology. I start to adapt these habits myself when I'm blindly following where they lead. There is a constant urge under the surface to have something more, something better, and to have it exclusively. It's why people wait in line for a product, why people devote their entire lives to blogging about a particular device and/or company. Of course technology is not all bad, and I would hate for that to be the point taken from this little rant. However, I've noticed firsthand how difficult it is to turn off the roaring engine that is the desire to possess something new. It is perhaps one of the most silent, yet dangerous dispositions to let creep in to your life. It is the exact opposite of contentment, and the Bible is clear throughout that a constant desire for material possessions (mammon) is sinful and idolatrous.
And that is where beauty comes in. All around us is a world created by God that we all too often fail to recognize. Technology drives us inward, but creation points to the Creator. With such created beauty everywhere around us, it should sadden us all the more when horrific man-made disasters like the gulf oil spill occur. We would all go up in arms if someone were to throw a can of oil on a da Vinci, Monet, or Rembrandt painting, yet I am surprised and confused by the response, or lack thereof, of many professing Christians to the oil spill. Where is our sense of creation care? We are highly protective of our “own” possessions, but when it comes to the world that has been given as a gift for us to live in, we balk at our responsibility.
I appreciate technology, and I get excited to think about the possibilities and new horizons that it opens up. But I am equally aware of the frightful limitations and negative consequences that it brings our way as well. More on this later.