80) Too Much Information, Not Enough Wisdom

     Our society drowns in information, but remains parched in wisdom.  “We have a surplus of information, but it is completely uncoordinated,” wrote Philip Slater in The Pursuit of Loneliness.  James Burke in The Knowledge Web pointed out that one of the hallmarks of our age is that we “know more and more about less and less, and less and less about more and more.”  We can decipher the human genome and are able to put an entire library onto a single CD, but we have little time to think about the life’s biggest questions.  Former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said, “A tacit atheism prevails.  Death is assumed to be the end of life.  Our concentration on the here-and-now renders a thought of eternity irrelevant.”

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     The very amount of information that computers make available threatens us with cognitive overload:  overwhelmed with facts, people tend to mistake data for truth, knowledge for wisdom.  “Infomania erodes our capacity for significance,” Michael Heim writes in The Metaphysics of Reality.  “With a mind-set fixed on information, our attention span shortens. We collect fragments. We become mentally poorer in overall meaning.”   –Michiko Katkutani, New York Times, 8-20-93

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     During a major league baseball game a few years back, a dog somehow got out onto to field and began wandering around.  The game was stopped until the dog could be taken off the field.  The umpires tried to move the dog toward an exit.  Players hollered at the poor dog.  From the stands the fans were shouting, “Get out of here you stupid dog,” or “Here puppy, nice puppy, come here puppy,” and so forth.  The dog became thoroughly confused, running here and there, not knowing what to do.  Finally, he lay down on third base and refused to move.  A sports commentator summed up the scene, saying, “The problem was that the dog could not hear any dominant voice.”

     Our world is full of conflicting voices, all clamoring for our attention.  Many are left confused, fragmented, and insecure.  But for those who will listen for it, the voice of the Good Shepherd will rise above them all.  He can be our ‘dominant voice,’ and we can put our faith and trust in him, and we can follow him.

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     Puritan Minister Richard Baxter (1615-91):   “Through the whole course of our ministry, we must insist most upon the greatest, most certain and necessary things, and be more seldom and sparing upon the rest.  If we can but teach Christ to our people, we teach them all.  Get them well to heaven, and they will have knowledge enough.  The great and commonly acknowledged truths are they that men must live upon, and which are the great instruments of raising the heart to God, and destroying men’s sins; and therefore we must ever have our people’s necessities in our eyes.  It will keep us from needless trivialities and unprofitable controversies to remember that one thing is necessary.  Other things are desirable to be known, but these must be known, or else our people are undone forever.  Necessity should be a great disposer of a minister’s course of study and labor.  If we were sufficient for everything, we might expound upon everything, and take in order the whole Encyclopedia; but life is short, and we are dull; eternal things are necessary, and the souls that depend on our teaching are precious.”

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John 10:27, 28 — (Jesus said), “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

II Kings 20:16 — Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord.”

Hebrews 2:1 — We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.

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Eternal Spirit, amid the tumult of our days may we keep within our souls a holy place where you can dwell, your great and wondrous power strengthening us; and a quiet place where you can speak, your strong and certain voice directing us.  Now and again may we withdraw from all the feverish struggle and loud anger of the world and silently commune with you, the Unchanging God who comes to visit us and refresh us.  May our spirits, being made alive by you, love you in return.  Then as we go out among others to face our daily tasks again, may we still possess your inner peace so real and all-pervading that nothing, neither life nor death, can ever lead us from you, O strong and mighty One, O holy, silent God.  Amen.   –G. A. Cleveland Shrigley (alt.)