I tend to have a bit of a problem with the all-too-common rants against “modern technology” and “today’s society” or even “kids these days”. For every major shift in how humans live their lives (and these shifts do seem to be coming faster and faster as the years go by), many of us become filled with an overwhelming desire to dig in our heels and try to keep things the same.
I don’t think this resistance to change is necessarily part of human nature. I think it’s something we’ve learned, something we’ve woven so completely into our collective culture that most of us can hardly imagine another way to think. And I think it has to do with one basic concept: that there must be One Right Way. It’s true in politics, it’s true in religion, it’s true in business, it’s true in just about every facet of life: everyone is looking for (or thinks they have already found) the only good way to think, to pray, to lead, to love, to live.
Of course, if there’s only one right answer, one correct way of thinking, and we’ve already found that one right way, change must be bad. The internet has now connected us in ways we could hardly conceive several decades ago, and the negative reaction is as strong as ever. Some believe it is eroding spiritual commitment and devotion. It’s much the same argument as you’ll hear from anyone who thinks that the internet is actually making us less connected.
But really, all that’s being said by all of those who lament the changes is that the more we embrace this new technology and the culture growing around it, the less we do things the old way. Whether that statement is delivered as a complaint or not depends on how much the speaker believes in the absolute superiority of the old way. If you believe the future is bound to bring us wonders we cannot begin to imagine, then the idea that things are changing is likely to be exciting and promising. If you believe that the current way or past ways of doing things are the only right way, then change is only destroying what is good.
This could easily become a diatribe on how we should all be optimistic and embrace the future because all our problems will be solved by technology someday, but that’s absolutely not where I’m going with this. Honestly, I think faith in future perfection is as misguided as a commitment to preserving some imaginary perfect past.
But change comes whether we fight it or not.
One way or another, the future will come and it will be vastly different in some ways from everything we know and have known. It simply will happen, and our attitude towards the change can do nothing to prevent it.
So the question then becomes not whether change is good or bad, but how we use it for good or bad. Instead of lamenting the shift in culture brought on by the internet and social media, real concern for the future should have us asking what abilities this new connectedness gives us that we can use to create positive change? Perhaps we should be considering what our lives, the spiritual portion included, would look like if we accept the changes and adjust accordingly.
Most spiritual paths focus to a great extent on the future, but few embrace the inevitability of future changes in culture and way of life. Few encourage the kind of personal adaptability and flexibility which is necessary to smoothly navigate shifts and changes as they come. Instead we’re taught “unchanging” truths and encouraged to remain unchanged though the world around us falls apart.
It’s no wonder, then, that we fear change so much that we fight it. Spirituality in the form we know it best has failed to equip us to deal with it. I think it’s imperative that we find or create and embrace a different way, a different mindset, which focuses our spirits on becoming more discerning rather than more correct, more purposeful rather than more pious.