And then, when injustice, sorrow, or unexpected suffering strikes, you project into the future a pessimism about your life? When you experience joy you feel that you will always experience joy. When you are struck down, you feel you will always be struck down.
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Such is the weakness of our human perceptions. Ours is an affluent age.
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And a deadly one. A good deal of normal human life is spent either avoiding suffering or applying remedies to it—especially anodynes and anesthetics. It goes without saying that no one should seek suffering. Until our final breath in this world, we will continue to experience quirks and quarks, quiet and quibble, trouble and tribble, in short—trials and tribulations. He knows that ultimately this is very good for us, if we do not lose heart, if we do not run from it. He knows that we are stronger than we think we are.
He knows that we are strongest of all when he lives in us and we live in him.
When we understand this at last, we are no longer haunted or hypnotized by evil nor paralyzed by discouragement. We can stand up and penetrate the darkness of a fallen world with confidence in the ultimate victory of Christ.
Then, pessimism and shallow optimism alike are swept aside by the real thing, which is Christian hope. Advent is a time to learn how to do this with grace. It is the season when we can learn to bear with greater dignity our weakness as creatures, and to discover unexpected victories. Jesus, who cannot bear to keep you in a state of affliction at length, will come to help and comfort you, by instilling new courage in your spirit.
During the past few months they came under attack from saboteurs and commercial advertisers, who clogged the site with an exponentially increasing number of junk messages, demanding a lot of time each day weeding the flood of corruption from the legitimate messages. I also regret that limited-edition prints are no longer offered for purchase. However, several original paintings are still available for purchase in the Profiled Works gallery.
But they now can only do so with some personal effort, no longer with automatic spammer software. This means that somewhere out there in the world there are individuals wasting their time even as they waste mine. Call me a decoy. Call me a moving target. Call me a make-work project for people with too much free time on their hands.
Ironically, as you can see, I am using the media to critique the media. Such is our world. Such is its potential for good fruit and its potential for bad fruit. Untold millions of stunning images are available on the internet, most of them for free, most of them produced by cameras, most of them made not so much by art as by mechanism, of course with a human being controlling the mechanism.
It begs the questions: Does the controller shape the work of the mechanism, or does the mechanism shape the controller? Or both? If so, in what way? One of the negative consequences of the internet is that our consciousness is flooded with extremely powerful visual stimuli, in both quantity and kind unprecedented in the entire history of mankind—in the entire history of the human brain.
This quantum leap has occurred within a single generation—one might call it the internet generation. IN for short. The exterior world perceived and experienced INwardly. INtimate e-relationships. Avatars and spammers and firewalls and blockers and bloggers and disconnects spreading in every direction, but all justified by the illusion of human connection—which is the longing within each of us for human communion, which in turn is a foretaste of the complete and eternal communion of Love which we will know fully only in Paradise.
A dear friend of mine, a Catholic philosopher and author, refuses to be sucked into cyber-world. He uses the antiquated medium of pen and paper. His long and very beautiful letters, so rich in thoughtfulness and insight, contain illuminations that sometimes take me time to decipher, reflect upon, absorb. When one of his letters arrives, I sit down and slip peacefully into a curious sense of—well, how to express this—into a sense of timelessness is the only word I can think of. Timelessness and attention. I expect that one day he will tell me he has finally done what he has so often threatened to do: he will progress to the next level of communication by destroying his computer with an axe he presently compromises for e-mail essential to his work.
He is at this moment sharpening the point of a quill, and looking for a reliable supplier of vellum letter-paper—and honing his axe. Does the apparent connection to a global community offered by the internet give us a genuine communion, or does it offer us a dangerously misleading pseudo-communion? Does it disconnect us even as it tells us it is connecting us? The palantir was all about communication, all about transcending the limitations of human sight and hearing, dissolving distance, dispelling separation.
But what is this newfound power, this instant knowledge of good and evil, really about? Why has it appeared so swiftly, and spread everywhere, and why does it engender so much addictive behaviour in its devotees? That it is a tool with potential for immense good is undeniable. That it is a tool for immense evil is also undeniable. The internet is neither good nor evil in itself. Evil cannot be created. No created thing is evil.
As the Lord says, it is not what goes into a man that is evil, but what comes out of him. Even so, we must always consider whether our tools and powers are disposing us toward good or toward evil. Do they make it easier for us to live the good, or more difficult?
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Killing us? A bit extreme, Mr. Well, yes, but in all honesty I think it fair to say that this very useful, morally neutral tool is now devouring countless lives, warping our sense of time and our scale of human values—not to mention the moral absolutes. The subject is vast and crucial.
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