Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Is it Me or He Who Misses the Point? (Not I)

Okay, I know the grammar of the title is wrong, but I preferred the sound, and so broke the rules. That's a typical fiction writer for you.

Thanks, Dr. Sanity, for adding me to this week's Grand Rounds. See Sense of Soot at the end of the second paragraph of red links. A few of you may laugh when you read it.

Here's an oddball Reuters story about a Welsh reverend who's installing Wi-fi in his church for the pleasant convenience and diversion of attendees of services. Rev. Keith Kimber says, "I have no problem with people quietly sending an email or surfing the Internet in church, as long as they respect the church."

But they won't respect the church if the reverend himself devalues it to nothing more special than a coffee bar. Isn't that the point? We look for diversion when stuck in places we don't respect or despise, like train stations and hospital waiting rooms. If Kimber's loftiest goal is to get butts into seats, regardless of whether the attached consciousnesses are making even token efforts to engage with the presented content, I would suggest a future career in university recruiting where that thin notion of success is lauded.

Those with active minds that wander need peaceful surroundings to keep redirecting our thoughts back to larger, neglected issues of human existence. If you've ever tried to immerse yourself in a movie when a Gameboy player or Blackberry freak's seated next to you in the theatre, how much more difficult will it be to concetrate on the divine with pews of disinterested timekillers paging the box scores and porn on all sides?

Compromises to appease the common majority may be good for fast-food franchises, but lousy policy if Rev. Kimber's goal is to communicate so-called eternal truths. Maybe he'd simply be happy to have the kind of church whose chief products are lively rummage sales and well-attended potlucks. Maybe St. John's already is that kind of church, but a venue is most likely to become a place of special reverence and affection, a place to think uncommon thoughts, when it doesn't reflect the sameness of other spheres of life. What are ever-present are places with cacophanous throngs, employing further noise as background decor, parading short-term dazzles for those with the tastes of magpies and the attention spans of gerbils.

Even aside from our usual environments, the unsacred is carried within our undisciplined minds. Peaceful, beautiful, contemplative quiet is at a premium in current civilization. Reverend Kimber is reinforcing the modern myth that any worthwhile endeavor is material and diversionary. Transcendence beyond that which decays and which fails to feed the spirit's deepest hungers will be just that little bit scarcer and harder to find. Thanks for holding up the side, pal.

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