The best parenting advice I’ve ever received was: “When a child misbehaves, give him your full attention.” For my daughters, an unusual moment can be changed by taking a walk around the neighborhood, listening for a few blocks without distraction to whatever is on their mind. Something about that focused “being with” is directed at what they need most. It is, in fact, what we all need most: relationship and recognition.
In his new book, Andy Crouch writes that “recognition is the first human quest.” From the moment we are born, we start looking around the room for faces, searching for the eyes that stare back at us. From that seeing and being seen, Crouch argues, personality begins. But we also soon learn that such recognition does not always come. The world often resists our hunger for recognition.
This is where the danger begins, as we increasingly have an alternative to recognition, a soft substitute for authentic relationships. When the baby looking for a face cries, it is now very tempting to silence him with a screen, a personalized device that reflects all his wishes. “But all of that will come at the expense of what she was looking for the day she was born, what we were all looking for,” Crouch writes, “because before we knew how to look for a mirror, we were looking for someone else’s face. .”
the life we seek it is a wise and important contribution to the continued discernment of the role of technology in our lives. Its strength lies in its deeply human emphasis on the personality and consequences of our surrogates. While he has plenty of criticism to offer about our current technologies, Crouch argues, we need to reconsider the “roots of the modern technological mindset” and give a “much more serious reckoning to ancient, primal, spiritual forces than we’ve generally allowed.” that still animate our technological dreams”.
Draw in the Shema From Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Jesus’ expansion in Mark 12:29-31, Crouch describes fully flourishing human persons as “heart-soul-mind-force complexes designed for love.” To live in our fullness, we bring each of these capacities towards love of God and neighbor.
But from Babel to the latest iPhone, we’ve sought to expand our capabilities and take on superpowers, opting for magic solutions whenever we can. The problem with this, Crouch writes, is that “you can’t tap into a superpower and still be a full person, in the sense of a heart-soul-mind-force complex designed for love.”
To explain what he means, Crouch offers the example of air travel. It is a superpower to fly in the sky; it almost seems like magic. But to do so, we must give up our essential human strength, diminishing our own ability to move. This is very different from other modes of travel that would stretch or compromise all of our powers of soul, mind, and body.
If you had to make the same trip of hundreds or thousands of miles on horseback, by bicycle or by sailboat, all of them means of transport that are not superpowers, those senses would be alive like few times in your life, invoking emotions, intellectuals and emotions. even the spiritual response to the sight of mountains, the sharp snap of cold air, the bite of wind, the brilliance of stars.
Even driving a car, as philosopher Matthew Crawford argues in why do we drive, requires more of us than the passive acquiescence of air travel. And yet, our technological impulses push us more and more toward things like self-driving cars (which borrow autopilot technology from airplanes) that lessen our body-and-soul engagement.
Where lies the logic of this impulse? Technological futurist Kevin Kelly once wrote a book titled what technology wants. That’s rhetoric, says Crouch, “but a book called what a sucker Wants would have an enormous and terrifying plausibility.” Mammon is the real power behind our technological drives, according to Crouch. “Mammon”, he writes, “is ultimately not just a thing, not even a system, but a will in action in history. And what he wants, above all, is to separate power from relationship, abundance from dependency, and being from personality.”
To counteract this will and desires, Crouch appeals to the “greatest resistance movement in history to the way of Mammon and magic,” the Christian way that brought about a total reordering of society, overturning old conceptions of who counted as a person and who does not. No.
In a wonderful interlude, Crouch explores the radical reorganization of society in Paul’s letters: a society in which slaves who were not considered persons are granted the dignity of participating in the body of Christ. Crouch believes that through this personality revolution we can find some hope for our own way forward in this new age of empire.
Crouch offers only general principles as possible ways forward. You will not find any particular guide on how to get rid of commercial social networks or keep your child away from your tablet. (Crouch offered that kind of advice in his 2017 book The Tech-Wise family). Instead, the life we seek it ends with various moves, from devices to instruments, from family to home, from enchanted to blessed, sparking a broader imagination about how we can resist the dehumanizing effects of Mammon on our own lives and communities. In each of these movements, people are centered above and against the instrumental logic of empire.
We are on the cusp of a new technological revolution, in which our lives will be shaped by the accelerating forces of artificial intelligence and the “internet of things.” They are all part of Mammon’s needs, a desire whose ends have nothing to do with the flourishing of human persons. Crouch offers an invitation to a different path, a more humane future, carved out of the midst of empire and rooted in the original personality revolution brought about by incarnation, “where for once in our lives,” as WH Auden put it, “ Everything became a You and nothing an It.”
For several years, I have been searching for a book to help me explore technology with my congregation. There are plenty of good reviews of various aspects of our technological malaise, but they haven’t offered the balance of accessibility and insight I’d hoped for in a single volume. the life we seek It’s just the book I needed, offering a spiritually rich and insightful guide to thinking through the challenges of our times.