Virtually

This afternoon, around a quarter to three my new graphics card was delivered. I asked the Parcel Force delivery man why it wasn’t delivered on Saturday — it had a large “Saturday” sticker on the top of the package.

“We don’t do Saturday deliveries in Edinburgh,” he replied.

Fair enough, I suppose. It’s just a shame that I spent an extra £5 or so for next day delivery, for it to arrive the next-next-next day.

I’ve been amazed (and slighly frightened) about how dependent I am on my PC. For everything: news, communications, my calendar and to-do list, my addresses, writing letters, organising the holiday home, entertainment, … everything. I have had my trusty Psion 7 which has allowed me to access my email, the web and chat with friends on MSN Messenger. But to be back on my PC is a relief, not least because my PC desktop space is 8.5 times larger than the Series 7 (2560 x 1024 pixels, 32-bit colour, on the PC compared with 640 x 480 pixels, 256 colours, on the Psion).

Virtual Christianity

While waiting I’ve been reading around the subject of my presentation later this month at the Murrayfield Churches Together’s Sundays at Seven evening: “Where is God on the internet”. Having purchased a number of cheap books on Amazon I’m reading one of the first ones that arrived, called Virtual Christianity: Potential and Challenge for the Churches by Jean-Nicolas Bazin and Jérome Côttin, published by the World Council of Churches.

Being both a fervent user of computers and the internet and a committed (and professional) Christian it is refreshing and challenging to be given the opportunity to think more specificially about how these two spheres relate to one another. I’ve just finished reading chapter about how both faith and the internet focus on the immaterial.

[Cyberspace allows human beings to acquire] powers and knowledge that until now have only been attributed to God: omnipresence and omniscience; crossing over boundaries of time and space; immateriality, and so on (op cit. p.34)

One writer, Philippe Breton, compares internet users to members of “New Age” religions:

Internet users have simliar attitudes, dreams and mental constructs to those of new religions: detachment from the body, devaluing the material in favour of the immaterial, holistic thinking, disdain for reason, ideals of transparency, the application of the metaphor of light, the quest for ecstasy, the search for universal harmony between human beings, and so on. (op cit., p.38)

I find western Christianity, on the whole, to be a very head- and mind-oriented religion; particularly the closer towards Protestantism you draw. The focus is on the Word, on reason, on the mind, on knowing what you believe, and why, and sharing that with others. There is still an emphasis towards a dualistic worldview: good vs evil, sacred vs secular, mind vs body; in computer terms: virtual reality vs reality. Take our theological education for ordination, for example. It is focused almost exclusively on academic achievement (the mind) with only a little training given in practical things that you do (the body).

It is no wonder that I feel more at home in my head than in my body. It is no wonder that I struggle to know what to do when my PC goes offline for extended periods. It is no wonder that I want to focus more on the parts of the job that involve thinking (sermon writing, SEC website, etc.). It is no wonder too that I’m finding pleasure in cycling and playing my guitar more. I feel like I’m rediscovering that I have a body — and that can only be a good thing.

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