“This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth: you shall meditate on it day and night; so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.”
I regard David Gelernter as one of America’s wise persons, and one of our most provocative thinkers. In his position as professor of computer science at Yale University he admired as one of the world’s most brilliant and visionary computer scientists. The New York Times called Gelernter a “computer rock star”. He also holds advanced degrees in Classical Hebrew and in his writings combines ancient wisdom with knowledge of cutting-edge technology. So I naturally paid attention this past week when I came across the Gelernter article: “2013: What Should We Be Worried About?”.
In the article Gelernter says that what most worries him today is “Internet drivel”. He bemoans the degrading effect of the drivel on all of us:
If we have a million photos, we tend to value each one less than if we only had ten. The Internet forces a general devaluation of the written word: a global deflation in the average word’s value on many axes…The Internet’s insatiable demand for word creates a global deflation in the value of words.
This computer scientist, who was among the first to predict the World Wide Web, frets:
The Internet drivel can’t be good – and is almost certain to grow in importance as the world fills gradually with people who have spent their whole lives glued to their iToys (www.edge.org).
I admit that it was on the Internet I read Gelernter’s worry about all the Internet drivel. But I am sobered by what Gelernter calls the “general devaluation of words”, and wonder what it means for all of us who love the Word. Was this what worried T. S. Eliot two generations ago when he wrote about the “knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word…wisdom lost in knowledge…knowledge lost in information” (from Eliot poem, “The Rock”).
It is estimated that the body of knowledge doubled between the year A. D. 1 and 1500. It doubled again in the three hundred years between 1500 and 1800. It doubled again from 1800 to 1900. By 1940, the doubling rate was every 20 years. Today it is estimated that knowledge doubles every one to two years. It is predicted that by 2020 our collective body of knowledge will double every 72 days. And yet, can we say that we are any wiser? Any more compassionate? Any happier?
Don’t get me wrong! I expect my use of the vast library of the Internet to only grow in 2013. I look forward to discovering yet many more treasure troves of Biblical and spiritual resources that would not have been available to us just a few years ago (see for instance, www.pray-as-you-go.org). I no more want to turn back the clock on the Internet than I would want to turn back the clock on the printing press! But I want the Internet to serve me, rather than me serving the Internet.
As I reflected on the Gelernter article, and thought about all the many words and the Word, I thought of today’s Scripture text:
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth: you shall meditate on it day and night; so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
I find nothing new here, and certainly nothing high-tech. God simply commands that His book of the law, or instruction, “shall not depart out of your mouth”. For God’s Word to continually be in our mouth, requires it to first be in our heart. It’s old-fashioned Bible memorization that downloads God’s wisdom into us. Yes, I can always look up a Bible verse on my smart phone, but it needs to be in my heart. Whether in the year 2013, or Joshua’s thirteenth century B. C., here is God’s way to true prosperity; here is God’s way to success that will eternally endure.
Bible memorization requires us to swim upstream against the Internet culture as we make time in our day for four things:
When I turn off my computer for a while each day, and make time for – silence – solitude – Word — meditation, I worry a lot less about 2013. Won’t you join me in this daily practice? If you are not sure where to begin with Bible memorization, why not start with Joshua 1:8.
Grace and peace,
photo by Steve Rhode