Does high tech make a better man?
Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life
Cyborgs have long piqued the imagination of fantasy futurists. Now what was once fantasy is fast becoming reality in an escalating maze of technology that pertains to both mind and body. In due time, "The Six Million Dollar Man," with superstrong arms, lightning-speed legs, and a laser-vision eye, may be old news.
The term cyborg describes a hypothetical human being who has some sort of bionic part - a mechanical body part having greater functionality than the original body part that it's replacing. Tomorrow's men and women could have not only robotic arms and legs but memory enhancement through various drugs; an altered metabolism allowing them to function normally while deprived of sleep, food, and possibly oxygen, not to mention restorative blastema to regrow a limb or breast. It may soon be difficult to differentiate between what's real and what's fabricated in both mind and body. Steroid use by today's athletes will seem pretty tame by comparison.
While these possibilities are fascinating to think about, are they sending humanity woefully off track?
The nature of matter is temporal, so pushing life expectancy to 120-plus years will net neither the kingdom of heaven nor a better understanding of what it means to be a living being. Wouldn't humanity be better served to discover eternal life?
In the Bible, John tells a story about Jesus at Jacob's well. There the Master meets a Samaritan who's surprised that a Jew asks her for water, since Jews and Samaritans don't mingle.
Jesus responds, "If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water."
The woman is perplexed by what he says and queries, "Sir, you don't even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this 'living water'?"
Jesus continues, "Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst - not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life" (John 4:10, 11, 13, 14, Eugene Peterson, "The Message").
To me, this account illustrates our choices. The water Jesus offers comes from an entirely different well, the well of Spirit, not matter. If people drink from this well, they won't thirst again, because knowing one's spiritual perfection satisfies. But if people drink from the well of matter, even given rapidly accelerating technology that promises greater capabilities, they'll still thirst, because they'll seek that elusive perfection in matter. And it's not the nature of matter to be perfect.
The problem with a life grounded in matter is that it disappoints. For example, memory-enhancing drugs may promise improved SAT scores, but can't promise happier relationships, better health, or peace within.
On the other hand, expanding one's abilities through removing self-imposed limitations and getting to know one's spiritual selfhood proffers real satisfaction. That's because each of us is far greater than a material vessel suggests. If we limit our self-knowledge to a material brain and body, disappointment is sure to follow.
In my first year of college, I struggled. Lots of things in my home life legitimately demanded my attention, and I hadn't been a stellar student in high school. After my first semester, I was put on academic probation. I realized if I wanted to continue in college, I needed to pull my act together. I could see that on my journey, these same two paths lay before me. Either I could put more muscle into my work, hoping that I had the brains for the task, or I could get to know myself in the image and likeness of God, divine Mind.
In her textbook, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, "Mary Baker Eddy characterizes man as "the humble servant of the restful Mind" (page 119). As I came increasingly to see myself as a servant of God as Mind, rather than as a mortal with her own self-interests, my grades and confidence dramatically improved. Decades later, what I gained in those years still serves as a rung in my ladder, always there to support and sustain.
Technology may promise spectacular results, but if we lose the confidence that comes from recognizing one's real, spiritual selfhood, we've gained nothing of lasting value. Wouldn't we be better off forever quenching our thirst by dipping our cup in fresh, living water?