STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 12/17/2009

Till We Have Faces: Who Are We In Cyberspace?

By Mark Sargent

Chances are, you are not on Twitter or Facebook right now. But I can’t be sure. As much as I might like to imagine these short paragraphs will command your attention, you may have good reason to text your friends or check voice messages along the way. But I do hope the essays in this STILLPOINT will spark your own reflections about the potential and risks in the new interactive media and social networking. If this edition ignites any thoughts, do us an old-fashioned favor: Send a letter to the editor. We may publish it for others to read several months from now.

I know that sounds like forever, but perhaps we should be grateful Gutenberg did not invent a reply key for the printed page. Sometimes it is wisest to take the time to craft our words before rushing headlong into the next blog or email. My colleagues who contributed essays for this issue of STILLPOINT have certainly taken time to choose their words for the topic. It’s a thorny question: How do we seize the promises of cyberspace without our lives and spirits being engulfed by it? We’ve tried to keep these essays brisk and varied; your time is valuable. “If I had more time,” a famous writer once admitted to a friend, “I would have written you a shorter letter.”

I thought it was Mark Twain who first said this, but a quick Google search just now offers several other candidates, from Blaise Pascal to Benjamin Franklin to T. S. Eliot. While I was online I double-checked another Eliot quote I need for a later paragraph, acknowledged a colleague’s good news from the doctor, and responded to a student’s question about financial aid. And—as I have been doing about every two minutes—I checked Live Stats for an update of my son Daniel’s soccer game in California. It’s the 73rd minute and they are still trailing 1–0, but they have just been awarded a corner kick.

I wish I could see Daniel’s face as he jostles for position in the goal box, but until I can next watch him play, I am at least grateful for the video clips another parent will post tonight on YouTube. That narrows our distance—as do the photos my brother posted yesterday on Shutterfly and the prayer request my cousin sent me on Linked In. Of course, my iPhone and laptop overwhelm me: So many emails await a response; so many new articles merit reading; and so many people I care about are worthy of my time. I suspect you know the story.

So I hope this edition of STILLPOINT proves to be exactly what its name implies: a chance for all of us to linger at “the still point of the turning world” and to think about how we can hold our footing in the whirlwind of new information, gossip and perpetual marketing. It’s a deeply spiritual challenge: How can we be good stewards of lives and energy? How do we use innovations in media to enrich the spirit and to serve our Lord and others rather than lose our time and imaginations in diversions
and minutiae?

That quote about the “still point,” by the way, comes from T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. It’s a poem that requires attention: You need time to catch the terse rhythms, rich ironies and spiritual echoes, as well as to envision the Mississippi River and the rocky shoals of Cape Ann as Eliot describes them.

Perhaps you have favorite poems that you linger over. Or you have taken walks along the shoals to escape the constant glow of your computer screen. If so, mention all that in your letter to the editor, and we will try to print some of those thoughts in the next STILLPOINT. You can pass that edition among your friends—or simply text them the URL.

Mark Sargent is Provost at Gordon.


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