“Wonder”… Duane W. H. Arnold PhD
“And in the end they traded their tired wings
For the resignation that living brings
And exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow
For the glitter and the rouge
And in a moment they were swept before the deluge”
I might as well admit it… I’m a member of a cult.
Yes, it’s Apple.
I write this on my MacBook Pro. My iPhone6 (can’t wait to upgrade) sits on the desk. Across the room, set on its glorious cover/keyboard, sits my iPad Pro. Worse yet, I even keep the beautifully designed packaging for a ridiculously long time, simply because I have a hard time throwing away something that is so beautifully designed. What can I say? I drank the Kool-Aid and went back for seconds…
It wasn’t always this bad, but something happened in 2011, the year of Steve Jobs’ death, that have set me on a quest – one that has had a profound effect on my perception of life and my faith. In March of 2011, Jobs introduced the iPad 2 and, knowing his health was deteriorating, said farewell to Apple at the same time. At the beginning of his presentation he said the following, “It is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough – it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” A graphic appeared on the screen beside him, two street signs formed in the shape of a “+” sign, or an “x”, showing a road intersection of “Technology” and “Liberal Arts”. His following presentation is one of captivating salesmanship, made all the more poignant owing to his approaching death in October of that same year.
Now, as one does when one is in a cult, I wanted to look for “the deeper meaning”… So, I bought and read the biographies, watched the movies and documentaries searching for something more. One day it came to me. What if the meeting of technology and the liberal arts was something more that a marketing slogan? What if it was actually an equation? Maybe Jobs was saying “technology plus liberal arts equals” something… Or even, “technology times liberal arts equals”… but what? I was on to it, but what was the solution to the equation?
One afternoon my friend Owen was visiting. Now, Owen is my “Pete Townsend”. As some of you may know, Pete Townsend of The Who has a reputation of always being able to recognize something important before almost anybody else – “Hey Paul [McCartney], you have to come and see this new guitar player named Jimi Hendrix”… “Hey, there’s this new band playing called The Clash”… You get the picture. Well, I shared the secret equation with my friend, Owen. (I felt safe as he is also a member of the cult.) In a moment, he came up with the solution in a single word, “Wonder”.
We talked for the next hour about rediscovering “wonder” in our lives and came to some conclusions. It’s not about the “gear” or the equipment. It’s not about how much you know or all that you have learned. You can buy a Fender Stratocaster and a Marshall amp, read every book available on music theory, practice until your fingers bleed and still not play like Hendrix. Not unless something more is there… the wonder, the joy, the childlike discovery of something new and life changing. The discovery of something that you didn’t even know was there.
Wonder, joy, childlike discovery… At one time that’s how I viewed my faith and my interactions with other believers. No one had to coerce me to attend a Bible study, I knew what I would encounter there. No one had to prompt me to go to church, I knew that I would encounter God in Word and Sacrament… and I wouldn’t be doing it alone.
It seems to me that we’ve lost “wonder”.
We have the technology… the gear. Our churches (and homes) are filled with it. We use the technology continually even off site – podcasts, videos, web sites, blogs and all varieties of social media fill our days and nights. Pastors preach, bloggers write posts and Christian pundits of every stripe and variety may be encountered from the comfort of our homes and offices. Yes, we have the technology…
We have the liberal arts, as well. Learning is there for all who wish to partake. If you want to learn New Testament Greek, you can do it. You can go to a school nearby or get a start online. I can see the originals of the Dead Sea Scrolls and draw my own opinion as to the translation of the text. Recommended books on Church History abound. If you want to go to the classic writings of the Church Fathers, medieval theologians, the Reformers or post-enlightenment theology, you can find most online at no cost. Yes, we have the liberal arts…
Yes, we have the technology and we have the liberal arts… but where is the “wonder” on the other side of the equation?
Now, we use technology to have an online “presence” (admittedly, I share in all this). We define our “community” as those with whom we interact on social media or threads attached to blogs. We can write a quick post without considering what its effect will be, or worse, know that our post, filled with sarcasm, will actually be deeply offensive to someone who is, in reality, our brother or sister in Christ. Likewise, we can use our learning to bludgeon someone who does not measure up to our definition of orthodoxy – political or theologically. Sometimes it seems that given the tools to create a garden in which the sheer variety of growth and life should astound us and fill us with joy and wonder, we instead use the tools to dig our own trenches and bomb shelters until what should have been a garden looks like a battlefield from the First World War. Moreover, we can do all this with a degree of anonymity, or, at least, without at looking another person created in the image of God.
Maybe it is because “wonder”, like love, is fragile. Maybe we’ve become “adults” and left behind the childlike joy of discovery. Or maybe, as Jackson says, “We’ve exchanged love’s bright and fragile glow, for the glitter and the rouge”. All I know, is that I want that “wonder” back in my life. I want more than a backlit screen. I want to learn again for the sheer joy of learning itself. I want a community that is more than the exchange of comments made in anonymity.
I think what I really want is the Church… thanks, Steve…