New Technologies, New Relationships, Same Old End

(photo: Shutterstock image)

For a few months now, every Thursday I’ve been taking bits o’ wisdom from the Church regarding New Media and Social Communication. This one today is one of my favorite quotes from Pope Benedict XVI on the subject:

“The new technologies have also opened the way for dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions. The new digital arena, the so-called cyberspace, allows them to encounter and to know each other’s traditions and values. Such encounters, if they are to be fruitful, require honest and appropriate forms of expression together with attentive and respectful listening. The dialogue must be rooted in a genuine and mutual searching for truth if it is to realize its potential to promote growth in understanding and tolerance. Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this - in truth, in goodness, and in beauty - that we find happiness and joy. We must not allow ourselves to be deceived by those who see us merely as consumers in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.” - Pope Benedict XVI (New Technologies, New Relationships. - WCD 2009)

There are two main parts to this quote from Pope Benedict.

The first is how, with the help of technology, we can now encounter and know the rest of our human family better than ever before in history. I can go out right now and learn about or meet somebody from a different part of the world. I can learn and participate in new traditions and begin to understand other’s values. This is essential to unity within the Body of Christ. And what a beautiful and powerful way to introduce somebody to the gospel. This is all part of going out and meeting the people in the world - our brothers and sisters - where they’re at, understanding where they are coming from, and then helping to lead them more deeply to Christ. I pray that they will do the same for us in the process!

The second part of the quote pumps me up. “Life is not just a succession of events or experiences: it is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful.” Such a life is one full of meaning and purpose. If you take this “search” away or render it hopeless (i.e. believing truth, goodness and beauty to all be relative) then all we have left is a life void of meaning. All we have left is a succession of experiences. And in the end, no matter how exciting those experiences were, they will all be gone. Our stuff will have been consumed. And we’ll be dust.

Thankfully, our life has more purpose than that. The “end” in this life involves finding the true, the good and the beautiful. Every choice we make and freedom we exercise should be to this end. For this is the stuff of sufficient happiness and genuine joy (oh, and eternal salvation). The world has it all backwards lately. Choice is the good. Tolerance the virtue. Sensational novelty the idol. And subjective experience the truth. And so the world is left unsure, ungrounded, unhappy and, ultimately, void of meaning.