Spirits in a material world

person holding silver chain link bracelet
Worshippers of the Singularity gathered in Spain recently to discuss the religion of transhumanism. Attendees at the TransVision 21 conference listened to presentations about the promise of immortality as a cyborg, in a Matrix-style future. While that all sounds outlandish and far away, the basic tenets of transhumanism are quietly being accepted at a granular level. Eleanor Cummins has written a piece at Wiredwhich reveals a lot about the strange times we are in. Though she may not have intended to, Cummins draws together a number of threads which show how pervasive the transhuman worldview is becoming.

She notes how conducting our lives online for a year or more has reduced us to a “brain in a jar” mentality. But far from seeing this as  detrimental, Cummins suggests this as a potential cure for society’s ills. She writes that lockdowns and isolation gave “non-binary” people a chance to acknowledge the “dysphoria they feel out in the world.” In other words, mediating our shared existence through digital apparatus has deluded some people into thinking of themselves apart from their physical bodies. She reports this as a helpful revelation.

Cummins then applies this logic to the hot topic of social media’s toxicity to teen girls. Going beyond body positivity (where everyone feels good about how they look), or even body neutrality (which appreciates bodies for what they can do), Cummins suggests we should stop thinking about our bodies altogether. A psychologist quoted throughout the piece hopes the future will mean a complete absence of images of people. Problem solved.

Cummins raises some interesting points about how “self-objectification” and “self-surveillance” are features and bugs of the digital white noise. But the proposed solution is way too simplistic. Reducing inputs is a good thing. Thinking about yourself less is a good thing. But if you are ignorant of the corruption in fallen human nature, digital technology will just curve you further in on yourself. From youths who gazed at themselves in pools, to the trillions of selfies taken today, unhealthy comparison, discontent and alienation from others are often magnified by digital technology.

St James reminded his readers that what causes conflict and discontent is the idolatry in human hearts. “You lust and do not have, so you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with the wrong motives, so that you may spend what you request on your pleasures.” This problem is not one that will be fixed by discarding or ignoring our bodies but by being killed and made alive. Our Savior is the firstfruit, a picture of what we will be. His work begun in the waters of our baptism will be completed, not in a super machine, but in the Kingdom of our risen King. 

Wander and wonder

Harvard Business Review has written about the benefits of “awe”, “The wonder we feel when we encounter something powerful that we can’t easily explain.” Well, Mad Christians have that in spades. HBR suggests that wonder helps put our woes in perspective, inspires “pro-social” behavior, and increases resilience.

 The writer suggests taking an “awe walk”, wandering outside and taking time to notice things. God’s mercies are new every morning and we can see that all around us. Every Lord’s day, we partake in a feast of immortality, the mystery of Word and Sacrament, which is pretty unreal! The pagans may summon up some wonder, but we have the real deal.

How about this heat?

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), has tweeted that “extreme heat is a justice issue… Studies have shown that heat risk is disproportionately distributed to communities of color in patterns associated with segregation and redlining.” The Guardian followed a similar line of reporting, claiming that poor neighborhoods experience a “shade disparity” and a distinct lack of “canopy.” Counting trees has revealed that leafier neighborhoods are usually wealthier ones. 

The correlation between greenery in a community, especially trees, and increased well-being for the people living there is well-documented. While insanity in our politics is almost par for the course, it would be nice if our leaders would just speak plainly, rather than propose that heatwaves are racist. If Senator Markey would just say “Let’s plant some more trees,” that’s something we could all see the sense in.

Data blogger, Erin Davis, has aggregated the average greenery of the US by state and also globally by country. She lays out her methods in the article.