FROM THE ARCHIVES of Every Thought Captive magazine.
Spam, Wonderful Spam
I don’t want to get too technical with the fine points of economics, but it isn’t strictly true, despite what you’ve heard, that time is money. But it is not that particular bit of misinformation I want to get at here. Rather it is this cousin of that nugget- knowledge is power. It too, despite being accepted wisdom, is unwise horse feathers. Truth be told, time is power and knowledge is used to wrap fish.
We live in the information age, in the comfortable suburbs right off the wonders of the information superhighway. There are wonders of efficiency that the computer has brought us. Just consider eBay. Not only does eBay hook up buyers and sellers that would never have found each other otherwise, but it finds the market price for what is being sold through the magic of an auction. I not only don’t begrudge the information age this real triumph, I’m grateful for it. What I’m wondering though, is where that information goes when we’re done with it.
That said, however, we are in an overload situation. For decades now technology has been busy about the business of bringing us more information. When the airwaves couldn’t bring us enough television, we started laying cable. When that failed, we went with satellites. And what fills all those stations, but more information. We have phones that can reach us in our cars, and virtually everywhere (come and visit Mendota sometime. No reception here, I’m usually happy to report.) We have satellite radio as well. Then there is the internet. In less than a decade we went from dial-up to high speed. Hotels, coffee bars, even Laundromats all make their case that we should frequent their establishments, not because of better service, better mocha supremes or whiter collars, but because they have free wi-fi.
Stranger than all this from the last decade is the technology of this decade. We know we have too much information not because of how much information we have, but because we are now looking to technology to protect us from that information. The software that I see advertised (granted, it’s not like I’m some sort of software guru) is that which promises to protect us from pop-ups and spyware. Bill Gates in a recent interview was asked about new innovations coming from his company. What did he talk about? Spam filters.
Of course we have the same things all over the house. We have locks to keep our children from watching certain channels, and DVD players that will bleep every beeping bleep that tried to make it into your living room. And then there’s the spam eliminator for the telephone, caller ID. We invited the monster into play, and now we’re desperately looking for a leash.
We have magazines and websites devoted to television shows, and television shows devoted to movies, and movies constructed from cancelled television shows. We even have a television show that daily recreates, with real actors, the events of the pop star who is accused of seducing his victim how? With information brought to him by Hollywood.
Once again the complaint here isn’t what’s on, but how much is on. It isn’t so much what they’re telling us, it’s how much they’re telling us. When we try to keep up, we show ourselves not to be well informed and free citizens, but easily manipulated slaves. Pop has become our daddy.
But let’s remember our principles. Time isn’t money, it’s power. Each one of us wakes up each morning with twenty four hours. That we speak of “spending” time suggests that we’ve already killed it. Time is what we invest, because the days are evil. When we miss out on a conversation with our children, because we just had to hear what Rush had to say today, we aren’t investing, we’re spending. When we send the children off to watch Toy Story for the thousandth time so that we can share our wisdom with the world through our blog, we aren’t investing, we’re spending. When we can’t seem to find the time to read our Bibles, but can find the time to read other people’s blogs, then we aren’t investing, we are spending.
If we would know something interesting and important, it probably isn’t about the accusations of sin against the King of Pop. It would probably be more fruitful to know more about our sins against the King of All Things. If we want to worry about the sufferings wrought by sin, we probably don’t need to see which tragedy is boosting Fox’s ratings during sweeps month. It might be better to see how you can help those with whom you have covenanted in the church.
It’s true enough that the Bible doesn’t say you can’t listen to talk radio. It doesn’t say you can’t read or write blogs. It doesn’t say, as far as I know, you can’t read magazines from fly-over territory. And as such, I’m not saying it either. But just as we encourage folks to have lots of children not ultimately because we think contraception is a sin, but because we think children are a blessing, so here the issue isn’t whether you’re allowed to drink in this or that from the broader culture. The question is, aren’t there better things to do with your time? And by that I don’t merely mean more work-y kind of things. I mean more joyful kind of things.
Tomorrow night the Kisers are coming over for dinner. We won’t be watching a movie (though we do from time to time.) We won’t be talking about how the latest stats conjured up by ESPN. We’ll eat, and we’ll visit. We’ll worship and we’ll laugh. We may break out our instruments and peel off a song or two. We’ll enjoy some homebrew, and my clam linguini. And all of the sudden, must see TV isn’t any more.
Here’s another axiom for you, a fundamental economic reality. At the end of the day, as you weigh this good and that, it’s people that matter, flesh and blood, three dimensional people will always trump the titillation of tabloid television. Time is power, invest it wisely.
By R.C. Sproul Jr.