Recently I made a perhaps rather indulgent purchase that I find myself justifying to others and myself. I bought an iPhone. Now, considering that part of my job is teaching people how to use the iPhone it makes sense that I would have one, however I do find that I have inadvertently put myself into some people’s categories of what constitutes excessive personal technology and unnecessary expense. Besides the fact that my old phone and old palm pilot were both ready to die, I was in need of something that would give me access to my pastoring communication tools on-the-go. (And ideally, now that I have the wordpress application installed, I will even be blogging more.)
But does technology like this promote excessive individualism and discourage the creation of community and connection? I don’t really know for sure but so far I have found that I connect more with people, through email, messaging, phone calls and social networking.
Last night I was on the skytrain heading home late and encountered two different groups of teens who were clustered around little speaker docks with iPods, listening to music or watching videos together. The one group was even encouraging strangers on the train to put their iPods on the dock to listen to their preferred music and they took note of feedback from people who didn’t like the selection that was playing and changed the song.. Perhaps these were instances of community that, though fleeting, was created on the journey.
And really, how else is community created except for in fleeting ways? Community that is overly rigid, overly exclusive and set in it’s ways, runs the risk of being restrictive or unhelpful rather than life-giving and sustaining. On the other hand, I also find great value in community that is rooted in tradition because of the wisdom of many years that seems to breathe within that communal life.
Perhaps part of what makes us human is having a mix of both in our lives, rooting ourselves in traditions of community that are imbued with the wisdom of many generations and then also a playful creation of life-affirming communities that we pass through more or less quickly in our life journeys. Communities of festive enjoyment, like on the train last night; communities of shared meaningful work in our workplaces; communities of worship rooted in ancient liturgical patterns; communities of resistance and solidarity in the face of injustice. Communities of joy, hope, love and peace.