Vanishing Into This Machine When Robots Sing
The game's robots are so simple it is really a stretch to call them robots. Whatever you call the technology, it can't turn our lines into great poetry. But it does give human editors a new tool to rouse the human heart.
William Carlos Williams explains it well at the end of "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower." His passions swell in the final 18 lines because poetry reminds him what it means to be human. Williams calls this reminder simply "the news," but Christians prefer a different phrase, "the good news." If we don't know the good news, we will die.
My Heart Rouses to Bring You Good News
Too often we think the good news is to be found in whatever is new. This is a deep paradox of our faith. The good news is not news. It has existed since the beginning of time. In the beginning was the Word. God created using the spoken word. We transferred our words into technology, downloaded our memories onto papyrus scrolls and parchment, but they were still words and we were still human.
Without words or language, we lose our creative spark. We lose what makes us human. No one presents a better argument on this front than Radiolab. Their recent episode about Words will astound you. Listen to it, and think about what it means for the apostle John to write, "And the Word was with God and the Word was God." Without language, we are as simple as lab rats. That is not a metaphor, it is the conclusion of scientists studying people who have lost their ability to use words.
Arguably, we cannot think without words--at least not as we understand thinking. We are not human without words--at least not as we understand what it means to be human. Without words, we may not be able to carry the imago Dei.
But I am no technophobe. I do not fear that technology will separate us from the Word and our words. History has proven Plato to be wrong. We can transfer our words from speech to print without losing our humanity. It was a messy process at first. The moveable type press created as much misinformation as it did information. But humanity never lost its words.
Shane Hipps is right in Flickering Pixels: technology is scary and hard and dangerous. But the solution to our problem is not to ignore the problem. Rather than struggle through the challenges facing humanity, too many Christians are choosing to withdraw. They cite Marshall McLuhan like a prophet. "The medium is the message," they say, suggesting that our message is too important to allow it to be sullied by technology.
But McLuhan was only partially right. The medium may define the message when the medium is new, but eventually the medium becomes part of who we are. Eventually, print is not a technology at all. Eventually, there is a television in every home. Eventually, everyone is online recording his or her personal history.
In the meantime, we struggle together to reflect the truth in all that we do. But the struggle is not a war. It is a game. Let's play.
Related Links and Resources:
- Audio: Words a recent episode from Radiolab
- Video: Miranda's Aria from Death and the Powers
- Video: Robotic set pieces from Death and the Powers
- Audio: "Meet Wants Sweet," the Poetry magazine podcast about Death and the Powers
- Raw text of the Tweet Speak Poetry game inspired by Death and the Powers
- "12 Events That Will Change Everything" from Scientific American
- Across the Universe, chapter one available to read online
- "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower" by William Carlos Williams
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