Quiet and Deep Christianity

How should the church address the issue of our overladen minds and emotions – via accommodation or revolution?

The twenty-first century has largely abandoned being informed in favour of staying notified, we have rejected leafing through the pages of great minds in favour of scrolling through the curated scenes of one another’s lives, we have repudiated analysis in favour of rolling coverage, and we have become addicted to allowing the facts to play catch up with our conclusions. The ultimate outworking of this in terms of education, ethics, philosophy and creativity are difficult to quantify, but these phenomena undoubtedly point towards a downgrade, the purchasing of progress performance enhancers, with subtle regress as their side-effect.

 

Ours is an age of fragmentation, of intellectual hopscotch, of results-oriented activity on the one hand and mindless entertainment on the other. We have demolished the stonewalls and uprooted the hedgerows of our intellectual past in favour of speed, convenience, and leisure; the mass production of information on which to gorge ourselves, without a thought for the mental and emotional habitats which have been destroyed in the process. Sooner or later we will have accommodated these changes to such a degree that we won’t even know to feel regret, and by the time my young children reach adulthood the concepts of silence, stillness, meditation, deep reading, and unbroken thought will be so far back in our history that they may scarcely seem real.

The twenty-first century has largely abandoned being informed in favour of staying notified, we have rejected leafing through the pages of great minds in favour of scrolling through the curated scenes of one another’s lives, we have repudiated analysis in favour of rolling coverage, and we have become addicted to allowing the facts to play catch up with our conclusions. The ultimate outworking of this in terms of education, ethics, philosophy and creativity are difficult to quantify, but these phenomena undoubtedly point towards a downgrade, the purchasing of progress performance enhancers, with subtle regress as their side-effect.To quote the Romantic poet William Wordsworth,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!

A huge, and largely unaddressed, issue is what kind of effect will this tempo and tone have on the life and work of the local church? How should the church address the issue of our overladen minds and emotions – via accommodation or revolution? My contention is that as the intellectual sun sets in the global West, we must always, only, pursue the latter. There are many ways in which this might be achieved, but the following two distinctives might provide a starting point for addressing the cultural cacophony that assaults us each and every day:

Reflection over stimulation: Erling Kagge knows a thing or two about silence, and quite a bit about solitude. As a philosopher and adventurer he has spent time in some of the most remote places on earth, and has developed a sophisticated language to articulate what he has found there. In his book Silence: In the Age of Noise he meditates at length on the virtues and potentialities of being quiet in a sonically busy worldFrom wide open wildernesses to the enigmatic silences in classical music, Kagge maintains that our brains ‘prefer contrast and become attentive whenever the soundscape changes and doze off when things remain monotone’. The use of silence in poetry and in music, dropping the tone and taking a pause, can be a powerful means of capturing our hearts and imagination.

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