8/20/2008

Searching Ourselves Into Oblivion?

Breakpoint commentaries are always informative and help me to think clearly. That is true even when I do not necessarily agree with the conclusions reached. Today’s commentary by Mark Earley is a good example. Titled: Google and Our Heart's Desire, today’s commentary bounces off an article from the Atlantic Monthly’s July/August edition by Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? What the Internet is doing to our brains.”

To the Breakpoint commentary:


…Google and the Internet-at-large are convincing us that knowledge ought to be at our fingertips; whether it is a map, stock-price, article, quote, or video clip…As author Carr puts it, “the Net seems to be . . . chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” Carr is right. No wonder we are so crazy about it—it gives us the instant gratification we crave.

While the Scriptures teach us that one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control, Google bombards us with the opposite message: You ought to have what you want when you want it. And when you break it down, instant gratification is really another manifestation of pride.


Having detailed information at our fingertips is not necessarily something that can play into proud, self-gratifying, thinking. Having something to keep up with the details can free our minds to contemplate larger questions of life.

I have never been a detail person. (If you are a type-watcher, I am a Myers-Briggs INTJ.) I learned long ago that if I am to keep track of details, I need a very carefully designed system to help me remember. You should see my day-planner. It’s full of notes and reminders. My computer e-mail software is the same. You find multiple “to do” lists with automatic reminders, including multiple layers of information to help me fulfill my daily obligations.

Having detailed information at my fingertips helps free my mind to think clearly about concepts and abstract ideas. I find that I am able to concentrate on applying those concepts to current situations. The systems help me remember what I need to do, and in turn, I can do what I need to remember.

The internet functions in much the same way. The ESV web-site helps me find the Bible’s guidance. Mapquest helps me get where I am going. Wikipedia gives me a place to start research (There are limits to Wiki. I never end research there.). Google Reader lets me keep up with multiple blog sites whose articles interest me. MSN gives me news. The National Weather Service helps me keep my head dry. And the mother of all search engines, Google, finds details I could never recall

I am free। I am free from worrying about the things I forget। I am free from the ‘devil in the details.’

But I am also free to think. Free to contemplate the Greatness of God and my small place in His universe. Free to force abstract ideas into practical problem-solving tools. Free to pray far-reaching prayers from a comfortable, mostly worry-free place. Free to learn how to talk to others more clearly. Free to find out how my wife and daughter ‘tick.’ Free to do the most important things in my life.

This is not instantly self-gratified laziness. It’s glorious freedom.

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