Why Are You So Anxious?

marshillaudio94One of the most valuable resources that I have found in the last 15 years is the Mars Hill Audio Journal (no connection to Mars Hill Church). Hosted by Ken Myers, each volume of the MHAJ is a collection of essays by Myers and interviews with fascinating guests. I always learn from the MHAJ. One thing I learned from the latest volume is why people are becoming more anxious.

Volume 94 is an exploration of the effect of technology and especially contemporary forms of communication on culture and social interaction. What is the first thing students do when they leave my class? They grab their cell phones. Why? To see if they’ve missed anything. They are anxious and anxiously texting. As one guest observes on the latest MHAJ, when students walk across the quad of his campus they are not smiling. They are anxious because they are missing out. Modern technology gives the impression that we can overcome time and space. The actual inability to do that (finitum non capax infiniti), despite technology, creates anxiety as expectations rise.

Thanks to my friend Dave Horner (now at Biola University/Talbot School of Theology) for introducing me to the MHAJ when it was still on audio cassette.

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  1. Heh. Reading about these “anxious” students and their texting (which, unfortunately, they do while driving nowadays as well as while walking across campus) reminds me of a rather detailed commentary on how evolving technology continues to progressively enslave the users of it (if my computer crashes I’m without a window to the world and can become very anxious very rapidly!). The essay to which I refer, one of several prophetic dystopian works produced during the 19th and 20th centuries by various authors, was entitled Industrial Society and Its Future. You may recognize both it and its author by a different title and name: The Unabomber’s Manifesto by Ted Kaczynski.

    Of course, I do not approve of anything that Kaczynski did in order to bring his “cause” to the center of public attention, but when you read what he has to a say about how technology enslaves us, you have to admit that he hit the nail pretty much on the head and begin to wonder how far things will go before some rather dire ramifications begin to occur. Sometimes I think some these school shootings and malicious FaceBook extortion may be just the beginnings of that….

  2. I wonder also if all this texting and “blackberrying” is simply an excuse not to make eye contact (and even engage in conversation) with the real people one encounters in public places like a campus.

  3. Very interesting.
    I find that technology has grown to such an engorged state that folks have a desire to be connected at all times. Anxiety while using the technology because there is such a vast amount of content that we feel compelled to get through…and anxiety when away from technology because we are disconnected from our source of vast information.

    I wonder how much of the information that we are so anxious to grab hold of becomes wisdom rather than just bare information for its own sake.

    Certainly there are ways to bring glory to God with such powerful technological tools, but more often than not they are used for self-serving purposes.

  4. Dr. Clark,
    I’m thrilled to see a word about Mars Hill Audio Journal.

    Ken’s essays and guests have influenced much of how I think of my embodied living, the trajectory of ideas and how intentional forms and practices shape a life well-lived. His work is dedicated to “assisting Christians who desire to move from thoughtless consumption of contemporary culture to a vantage point of thoughtful engagement.”

    This latest issue you refer to hits on something I’m thinking of a great deal lately. Even though my level of “virtual connectedness” is minimal compared to many young people, I still find myself addicted to the need to be in touch through email and other technologies. My wife has pointed out to me my weakness in setting boundaries in my life; having the endless possibilities that technology opens increases the temptation to throw off all restraint.

    While technology is great (heck, I always listen to the Mars Hill Audio Journal on my Ipod while multi-tasking) it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls posed by these technologies that our culture celebrates as a given “good” in our lives, and be counter-cultural by being stewards of these gifts coram-Deo. Technology has enabled our whole existence to be homogeonized. Electricity allows us to ignore night & day. The seasons don’t affect us as they did our ancestors. I can speak to my son in Japan with a web-cam through my computer in “real time” as if he were sitting across the table from me. Virtual facebook friends are not as messy as nurturing real relationships. All of this gives the illusion that we can transcend time and space.

    Yet only God is transcendent and unbounded while we are created beings whose very existence consist of boundaries – which is a good thing. Wrestling with these technologies in a way that is informed by our creatureliness can be liberating. I might spend less time emailing and more time with my wife (the greatest gift to me.) I might spend less time blogging and more time doing some real good by helping my next door neighbor who is currently building a chicken coop. I may be less interested in listening to all the latest podcasts about great reformed teaching and be more involved in my local church, especially if it means visiting brothers & sisters I wouldn’t normally hang out with and getting dirt under my nails. And I’m growing in my appreciation of the Christian Sabbath as a great gift to ground us in creation and redemption and to break us from the delusion that we are gods.

    So why am I still sitting at my computer typing?

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