Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Countdown: 5 Days to Go

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Luke 2:16-18


We are living in an information hungry world.

There is no dearth of outlets for accessing all types of information - the type we must know, the type we have to know, the type we needn't know, the type we can do without, the type that's really unnecessary, and the type that no one really bother.

At the click of a mouse or the touch of a remote, we can be assured of immediate enlightenment, and can just get up and kiss ignorance goodbye. Or at least, that's the promise.

At a certain level, we can agree with the Chinese blessing that we are living in interesting times, and there's no denying that we are.

The ancient Egyptians had the library in Alexandria which was supposed to be the storehouse of all the accumulated knowledge of the time. Today, we don't have to travel too far to read about things we know nothing about or have to search through libraries to gain knowledge about a subject. All we need is a search button, key in our query and get to read all that there is to know whether it be in the form of a text, video or audio.

Wikileaks has shown that even the once inaccessible is no longer taboo and can be available whenever we want. Of course, whether or not this information is really necessary for our consumption is another matter altogether. But the fact of the matter is, the information is there.

Never in the history of civilisation was so much information so easily available for the entire human race. This alone places us in a very peculiar position because we can no longer blame some elitist group for monopolising all the information channels and conspiring to leave the masses ignorant. This argument no longer applies since even the mighty Massachusetts Institute of Technology has made its course syllabus available to everyone.

The trouble with the abundance of information is that looking for wisdom and knowledge in all of this is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The question is, what are we really doing with the information we receive? Are we doing our bit to transform that information into knowledge? Are we becoming any wiser or staying perpetually ignorant?

TS Eliot expressed these ideas quite eloquently in The Rock where he pointed out

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?


The shepherds received the news about the Christ Child's birth, and they went ahead to see for themselves what had taken place in a manger. They saw, they believed and told others about it. They didn't just use the information for their consumption but went ahead a step further by telling others about it.

They applied it to their lives, gained knowledge about the Messiah's birth, and became wiser as a result. They could have kept the news to themselves because, after all, they were mere shepherds and not expected to be conversant in such matters.

As I said before, we are living in an information rich world. We have available at our finger tips everything that we need to know about most things. What are we doing about it?

Are we using this information to strengthen our knowledge about people groups, diverse cultures and other countries/ nationalities? Or are we using information to perpetuate stereotypes, reinforce our prejudices, and solidify our biases?

If that be so, we run the risk of turning these interesting times into an absolute tragedy.

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