Monday, April 03, 2006

Technology and prayer; The Orthodox Church and pro sports

I had been meaning to post on technology and prayer for quite a while and got delayed repeatedly, I'll try to summarize my thoughts.

There is a lot to be said for technology. It makes possible things that we wouldn't even have dreamed of a couple of generations ago (like this post) and it generally makes life easier. It is in this latter characteristic that the greatest danger of technology lies. When things get easier we have more time on our hands and we have a tendency to misuse this time - perhaps by doing something that we should not be doing, or by doing nothing at all. It seems to me that there is great wisdom in the monastic practice of doing manual labor.

As strange as it may seem, prevention of idleness, even physical idleness in the beginning, is an important element of spiritual growth. The Fathers knew well that, just as nature does not support a void, neither does the human spirit. In the end, we cannot be doing "nothing." A "nothing" would tend to be filled by a "something" and more often than not, if left to our own devices, this "something" is going to be a negative (idle talk, envy, infidelity, etc.). Thus, the Fathers crafted their lives and the lives of those in their care leaving little void - manual work, prayer, sleep, taking care of the needs; these all were put together to allow the struggler on God's way to ward off the temptations.

Where does technology come in all this? It seems to me (after talking to a couple of priests I respect) that technology can be a valuable aid, with the caveat that it needs to remain an aid, rather than a replacement. Both priests expressed similar views with regard to a question I posed regarding a recording of the Jesus prayer: it can be valuable as long as it is used as a tool to appropriate the prayer. We have the tendency to allow technology to do the work for us. However, the nature of the spiritual struggle is ascetical; we can use technology to help us struggle, but we cannot let technology do the work for us and make progress.


On a different note, Magda and I were contemplating the student loans. She mentioned that the larger of the two loans could be paid off by the time I graduate. I thought that would be a bit of a stretch and from there the discussion took a rather interesting turn... ending up with us postulating the following process of priest assignment, televised on ESPN 5.

"With the first pick, the Minnetonka Holy Apostles Church selects..."

TV analyst: "That is a good fit for Holy Apostles, who have a lot of room under the salary cap and should be able to sign their pick. Remember, this year signing bonuses are projected to rise about 4.5%"


Anonymous Jim N. said...


What is one way technology could be useful in an ascetic context? Perhaps you elluded to it, but I missed it. :)

10:21 PM  
Blogger Virgil Petrisor said...

I can't give a comprehensive answer, but technology could be used to give reminders of prayer times to those who get lost in the busyness of life (e.g., organizer alarms), to put one in the right framework for prayer (e.g., listening to hymns), and perhaps even kickstart a prayer (e.g., by having a prayer recorded). There are probably many other ways to use technology. The key, as always, is to do it prayerfully and with discernment.

in Christ,

11:34 PM  
Anonymous Jim N. said...

I do use my computer to remind me of the hours. A little pop-up window with a sampled 'gong' from Big Ben in England.

9:25 AM  

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