Pass the windows of any DC coffee house, glance around you on the metro…when it’s warm again, look to any park bench and you’ll see it: Washingtonians reading. To all those grade-school teachers who warned millennials that watching TV would stop us from reading, this certainly counts as a plot twist! Admittedly some people now use their mobile devices for video games on the long bus ride home… and those who are reading aren’t necessarily plumbing the depths of Plato or Plotinus… but let’s look for the good with eyes of faith!
St. John Damascene writes:
“The apostles saw Christ in the flesh: they witnessed his sufferings and his miracles and heard his words. We too desire to see and to hear and so to be filled with gladness. …Since he is no longer physically with us, we hear his words read from books and by hearing our souls are sanctified and filled with blessing and so we worship, honoring the books from which we hear his words.”
St. John is talking about specifically liturgical texts, but we can telescope his teaching into the world. For Catholics, all truth finds its origin and end in Christ the living Word of God. Searching out truth can always [then] be a Christ-centered experience… a touching of the divine. That’s what’s so exciting about the proliferation of mobile devices.
Whether in novels or treatises, the great truths of our human experience are now available at the touch of a screen. Many of our classic texts are even available for free. Case-in-point: a friend of mine wrote nearly his entire theology thesis based on resources kept on an iPad. Another colleague keeps his entire library in his pocket. New note taking options on devices like the Kindle even allow for the cross-referencing of texts and one’s own thoughts. Truth in the palms of our hands.
Consider this too, all technology is in one way or another an extension of the person wielding it (Pop culture example: Thor’s hammer, Tony Stark’s “Iron Man” Suit). Very often these tools extend/magnify our strength. In the case of mobile devices we’re extending something else though, our reason… that gift which makes us most like God. …quite a thing to share with the world.
Mr. [Fred] Rogers once testified before the US Congress that the space between a child and a TV is sacred because of the personal formation possible there. Likewise for St. John Damascene the space between a reader and a sacred text… and for us the space occupied by our mobile devices. Whether in a coffee house, in the Metro, on a park bench, reverence for the good that can happen as we search for truth can help form us into the best versions of ourselves. Pretty cool, huh?