Finding God In Our Smartphones

on November 11, 2013

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony.”
– Albert Einstein

Smartphones have changed our world. Wearables will change our selves. Together, these amazing devices represent some of humankind’s greatest work, integrating the absolute leading edge of technical prowess, computer engineering, manufacturing skill and materials science. I wonder also if they are bringing us closer to God.

I confess, I do not know the answer.

Silicon Valley is about money, not faith. Real-time, not eternity. Change, not permanence. The worship that occurs here is typically at the altar of wealth, intellect, and luck; a place where residents proudly wear their atheism on their sleeves, and where the obviously religious are, if not looked down upon, then viewed the way far too many view obese people — broken, not quite fully evolved.

The spirit finds a way.

At the intersection of smartphones and wearables is a locus of desire to know ourselves, improve ourselves, celebrate ourselves. And yet, through these devices we are reminded how fully connected we are to one another, and soon, to all things. This strikes me as a form of grace.

At first glance, this notion seems incongruous. With smartphones and wearables, we post in real-time what we ate, how much we weigh. We tweet our passing thoughts on all manner of topics. We update our Facebook page to sanction our latest pleasure or most recent transient annoyance. We take pictures of our self, then another, then another, and display them all for the world to see. We actively seek the affirmation of nearby friends and faraway strangers, asking them to affirm our actions, no matter how small or fleeting.

We may all be, in this age of miracle and wonder, at our most vain.

Nonetheless, that fire hose of data gushing from these personal computing devices lays bare our very human failings, our strivings and our mortality. What comes after that? At the time of our greatest technical and intellectual advancement, do we merely expose ourselves as insufferably common, or are we (unknowingly) unlocking the fullest truth of ourselves?

The very tools used  to elevate our physical and intellectual selves, helping us to be the very best we can be, may ultimately serve to remind us that without a equal focus on the spiritual, it’s all for naught.

Consider that with smartphones, that which was once physical is now digital. Apps, tweets, music, movies, these are abstractions made real. We are contented with their ephemeral realness. Our very best technology, then, may be edging us closer — shaman-like — to bridging the physical and the virtual, and possibly to accepting the spiritual.

Our most advanced personal technologies are not merely uplifting, but guiding. We track everything, or soon will. In the morning our devices will remind us to eat right, to walk 10,000 steps. In the evening they will ask us if we gave due attention to our children, our spouse and our dreams. The daily rituals of monitoring what we do and how we improve may in fact help us find our way onto a narrow, possibly righteous path to goodness.

Yes, we can instantly access all manner of fetishism, violence, pornography, but also the greatest of humanity — and one another. The fragments of humanity, good and bad, are embedded within our technology, and resident inside our iPhones and Fitbits. Humans seek, we care, we dream, we sense there is far more beyond our self, our neighbors, even our world. This is true even if, at least in this infant stage of our meta connectivity, we initially turn such powers upon ourselves.

With smartphone in hand, we are connected to nearly everyone, from anywhere, at any time, and never truly alone. Wearable computer bracelet strapped tightly against our skin, the truth of our self is brightly flashed before our eyes, including our mortality. These devices will change us.

Which may not lead us to God but certainly should lead us all to be better.