21 February 2009

iPod Therefore I Am


iPod Therefore I Am is an essay by Peter Aspden that appeared on January 23, 2009 in the Financial Times. This essay is smart.

The title iPod Therefore I Am is an update on Rene Descartes revelatory summary of self-consciousness, I think therefore I am. In "Wisdom of the West" the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote, 
Descartes' famous formula 'I think therefore I am' is typical of this individualism, 
('this individualism' refers to the value of a person's skepticism of an all-knowing central theological, economic, or intellectual authority, or contrariwise, values the individual's experience, insight, and ideas on theology, politics, economics, social relations, etcetera)
since it throws everyone back on his own personal existence as a basis for knowledge.
In America the cultural value placed on the individual's decisions is parmount. Every economic, social, political, media, technological, and cultural thread presumes the supremacy of the individuals' perception, discernment, experience, and choice. The New Yorker cartoon above appeared in the '70's. I love it and it illustrates the self-infatuated pomposity of the era in which it appeared with Descartes 17th century insight. 

Aspden goes on to refer to a podcast he listened to by the English theologian Don Cupitt. Cupitt believes in a "non-realist" God. Aspden writes,
In the podcast, Cupitt outlines the need for Christianity to dispense with the imagery and myth-making that served it so well for many hundreds of years, but which is distressingly at odds with modern sensibilities. These days, Cupitt, says, he finds the words “God” and “life” to be virtually coterminous. Anything that speaks of life is Godly, and there is no greater indicator of God’s existence than a life lived well.
Well now . . . here's where the hook is really set in me. Why this is surprising? Aspden calls Cupitt "brilliant," so I sense admiration of him. Multiple religions have existed for millennia. America is awash in a marketplace of religions and cults. Christianity in America is in the form of multiple denominations among them. Christianity has existed for about two thousand years. My particular form of Christianity, Episcopalianism, has existed for somewhat less time, but I'm happy enough with it.

Imagery and myth-making are central to Christianity.  All religions are about imagery and stories and how humans stories and images of God have evolved over time. Christianity is one example. But Christianity's images and stories are specific; that in which we all move, and live, and have our being, became human in Jesus of Nazareth. I believe homo-sapiens notions of God and life are coterminous. But without the humanity of Jesus the Christ there is no Christianity. I worship God in human form, Jesus Christ, as written and handed down in the Old and New Testaments, and according to the forms, traditions, teachings, reasoning, and hymnady found in the Episcopal Church. There is no Christianity without human imagery and stories. No God in human form then no Christianity.

Christianity, when done well, and bears the fruit of what it does well, is always distressingly at odds with modern sensibilities. Christianity lived well is not easy. It is difficult. Jesus was, Jesus is, the incarnation of God. God made man. In the perception of God we are transformed.

Quacking is easy. Blogging is easy. iPodding is easy. It's a medium that is its own message. It transforms how we do intellectual pursuits how we are exposed to God and theology. But it's nothing like living and working to do all that we can, with all that we have, all of the time. Doing that is difficult. The iPod won't do it for us.