“Global Uniformity”

Prophetic words from 1995:

“I think cyberspace means the end of our species….Because it means the end of innovation….This idea that the whole world is wired together is mass death.

“Every biologist knows that small groups in isolation evolve fastest. You put a thousand birds on an ocean island and they’ll evolve very fast. You put ten thousand on a big continent, and their evolution slows down. Now, for our own species, evolution occurs mostly through our behavior. We innovate new behavior to adapt. And everybody on earth knows that innovation only occurs in small groups.

“Put three people on a committee and they may get something done. Ten people, and it gets harder. Thirty people, and nothing happens. Thirty million, it becomes impossible. That’s the effect of mass media—it keeps anything from happening. Mass media swamps diversity. It makes every place the same.

“Bangkok or Tokyo or London: there’s a McDonald’s on one corner, a Benetton on another, a Gap across the street. Regional differences vanish. All differences vanish. In a mass-media world, there’s less of everything except the top ten books, records, movies, ideas. People worry about losing species diversity in the rain forest. But what about intellectual diversity—our most necessary resource? That’s disappearing faster than trees.

“But we haven’t figured that out, so now we’re planning to put five billion people together in cyberspace. And it’ll freeze the entire species. Everything will stop dead in its tracks. Everyone will think the same thing at the same time. Global uniformity.”

–Michael Crichton, The Lost World

Jesus the Obedient Rebel

One day in high school, as a friend and I were being driven home by his mom, he and I started talking about what a rebel Jesus was.  Adolescent poseurs that we were, this was the highest compliment we could pay, and was certainly meant as such.  It was our juvenile effort at praise.  What we had in mind, of course, was that Jesus defied the authorities and conventions of the time.  This fit in very comfortably with our worldview, so we respected it.

My friend’s mom, though, then opined that Jesus was more of a conformist than a rebel, emphasizing that Jesus repeatedly explained that He was doing everything He did to be in strict obedience to the will of the Father.  We quickly countered that, while she had a point, we felt that He was more of a rebel than a  conformist, mostly because we didn’t want to be wrong. 

We were each right, of course, in a way.  The biggest thing that my teenage friend and I had to realize was that neither conformity nor rebellion are automatically goods in themselves.  Whichever is appropriate regarding a situation depends on the nature of that situation.  As much as our society so uncritically lauds rejection of anything mainstream (so much so that this attitude has itself long since become the mainstream), I think we’d all admit that when it comes to some things–for example, brushing our teeth–it’s actually not so desirable to be a rebel.  No, sir; when it comes to oral hygiene, I say let’s all get on board the bandwagon and drink the kool aid (metaphorically, as it were, since, you know, dental health and sugary drinks don’t really go together…*ahem*).

Followers of Christ often speak of having to live in the world but not of the world, of giving unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.  Since so much of life comes down to acting on a case by case basis, we can only truly rely on solid principles that we understand and covenant to adhere to ahead of time, at all times. 

In this, as in all things, Jesus is our perfect exemplar.  When faced with instances of others being unjustly persecuted, ignored, taunted, abused, or taken advantage of, we must act in direct contradiction to the prevailing opinions.  Regardless the norms or polls involved, we must heed the life of our Master as the pole star to guide us in thriving within unholy environments, showing mercy and tolerance, but refusing to condone or participate in wickedness, interacting with the world as the Spirit dictates. 

And as our elder brother has shown, the ultimate principle to organize our lives is that, in all things, all places, all times, we must strive to bring ourselves into agreement with the will of our Father in Heaven.  Then, and only then, will our choices to submit to some things and rebel against others be in proper balance.