Spiritual Sanity in an Infoglut Culture

I am glad I learned English as my first language.  It is the global language of the modern world.   But I am told it is difficult to learn as a second language.   “Rules of grammar” are hard to grasp because there are so many “exceptions to the rule.”  Not only  that, but  English also has so many words.  English has been described as a “mongrel language” because it plunders other languages and keeps absorbing new words and expressions.

Several weeks ago, the number of words in English officially passed the 1 million mark.  At least, that is what the Global Language Monitor says, (an Austin, Texas based company that tracks the use of the English language).  How’s that for a vocabulary list to get your arms around!  That’s about ten times as many words as used in Shakespeare’s England.

Do you ever feel pelted by words?  We live in what some have called an “infoglut culture.”  That’s a phrase used for describing the information overload in the workplace which causes stress.  Due to technological “advances” we have more words, more messages, more E mails, more voice mails, more advertisements, mroe books, more tweets, more information coming at us than we know what to do with.  There is such a glut of information that we are beginning to hear new terms like “datasmog” and “digital garbage” to describe the excess.  Let me give you some examples of what bombards us daily.

  • According to the Nielson Report, the average American is exposed to around 1,600 advertising messages a day.
  • Mobile messaging is now growing globally.  VeriSign, which provides internet infrastructure services and delivers messages on behalf of carriers and providers, reports that it enabled 58.3 billion messages per day in the third quarter of 2008.  How many a day do you receive?
  • There’s a new book published somewhere in the world every thirty seconds.  There are 4,000 new books published a day (and you thought you were behind in your reading).  The number of titles published worldwide each year has now increased to 1,000,000 (As reported by Princetoninfo.com, the web site for U.S.1 Newspaper, in Princeton, New Jersey.  Article by Edward Tenner, May 12, 2004).
  • Digitally, when we describe data transfer rates, we’ve gone from talking about kilobytes, to megabytes, to gigabytes, and now to terabytes.  How big is your hard drive?  And after that comes petabytes, exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes.  Sounds like something out of Star Wars.
  • It is estimated that 1.5 exabytes (1.5×10 to the 18th power) of unique new information will be generated worldwide this year.   That’s estimated to be more than in the previous 5,000 years.
  • We are told that the amount of new technical information is doubling every 2 years.  For students starting a four year technical or college degree this means that half of what they learn in their first year of study will be outdated by their third year of story. 

I suspect all this causes more than “workplace stress.”  Could it be that it is causing a deep spiritual ignorance and perhaps even a soul numbness among people?

In 1934, poet T.S. Eliot wrote Choruses from “The Rock.”  The opening stanza speaks of our growing “knowledge of words and ignorance of the Word.”   And that was before the digital age!  He wrote, “All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance, all our ignorance brings us nearer to death, but nearness to death no nearer to God.”

Then he asked, “Where is the life we have lost in living?  Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?  Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”

I contend that people living in an infoglut culture need God’s Word more than ever.  Despite post modern objections to meta-narrtives, we desperately need some transcendent Word.   We need it for our spiritual sanity and stability.  We need the Holy Bible–God’s written Word.  We need it because it is uniquely inspired (expired or breathed out) by God.  We need it because it leads us to God’s living Word, the eternal word, the Logos, Jesus Christ.

Scripture says in 1 Peter 1.23,24, “For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, ‘All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;  the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.'”

Hebrews 4.12 puts it this way:  “For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;  it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

In a digital age exploding with more information than we can handle, it is important to remember that there are words, and then there are words of life.  If you find yourself choking from the digital smog, go back to the air and soul purifier of God’s Word.   There is nothing quite like it.

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