Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Dickens in Cyberspace

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only (Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, p. 3).

Much great literature has a memorable opening line, perhaps none so great as Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. Cyberspace has made the world smaller, but it hasn’t made great opening lines any easier. So to borrow from the past that also borrowed from the past, allow me to meditate on Dicken’s words for a moment.

Dicken’s words have the nearly unique character of being able to apply to things from virtually every generation of human history. Here, at the dawning of the twenty-first century of the Christian era, it is hard to imagine that they were not written to describe ourselves. (Of course, our self-obsession makes that imagination easier.) The times in which we live could hardly be described in a more accurate way without resorting to great verbosity. Modern technology, completely unknown to Dickens who scribed out his musings longhand, has made this era the best of times, while making them the worst of times.

It is an era of tremendous wisdom in creating and furthering technology, combined with an era of tremendous foolishness that has used that technology to create a world trapped in its own stupidity lobbing ideas into the unknown reaches of cyberspace to see who will bite in and who will bite back. It is an era where gullibility has become an art form not limited to the most naïve among us, while the things posited as truth become more unbelievable than Alice in Wonderland. It carries the seeds of hope for better things in life management, communication, health care, travel, and other fields, while it carries the seeds of great despair as we wonder how much more depraved a society can become and live to tell about it. It is a society that, by and large, believes they are on their way to heaven, or at least making a good run at it, while they sadly pave and streamline the road to hell. In this era, cyberspace, the World Wide Web, has become to soup du jour. It is the best and worst all in one browser window. It is the seemingly one indispensable part of modern life. People who can live without food and water are lost when the internet connection is down.

Cyberspace has opened a whole new world to the modern, or post-modern, generation. It is a world where anonymity reigns supreme, where ideas have no immediate consequences, where the oldest thought can be dressed in new clothes until it is picked apart and looks like Anderson’s Emperor, standing in all his glory for all to see. The same thought can be redressed in different clothes until it becomes the Queen of England, dressed to the nines. And who is behind it? One has to wonder if it isn’t the Wizard, strikingly unstriking in his appearance, sitting in his drawers behind the curtain of his monitor and keyboard reveling in his own expectorate while others fawn over his great wisdom.

I have long lamented the fact that the World Wide Web has given every idiot with a computer and a phone line the idea that he has something people need to hear. And it seems that way too many idiots have taken advantage of it. You can find someone to support every hare-brained idea that pops into your mind, along with a lot of ideas that have not popped into your mind … yet. Cyberspace has no traffic cops that evaluate the legitimacy of an idea before it is put out for all to see. But fortunately, we all have the right to direct our browsers elsewhere.

All of that to say that this: My starting of a blog is not done with the idea that I have anything to say that will change the world. I do not wish to add to the maze of trash that already litters the networks of the world. If something I say is significant, it is only because someone said it before me, and when I know who that someone is, I will give credit. No, my purpose in starting a blog is purely personal. I have become convinced that the best speakers are good writers. (The opposite is not always true.) A person who wishes to be a good speaker should strive to be a better writer. Since my life is one of a public speaker, a pastor and teacher of the Bible, this is to develop my own skills. It is likely that few, if any, will ever read, but I will write and welcome the input of any who wish to critique it. I will, from time to time, let my mind do its thing and try to capture it on screen. Hopefully, it will make me better at what I do so that I can more clearly communicate the truth of God to a generation in need of it.

Next time, I will explain the name. There is a reason for the name that is near and dear to my heart, because to me, it sums up the great problem of communication.