Should Technology, Like Tobacco, Bear Warning Labels?
Dear old and new friends,
“See you later” is now so familiar a farewell it’s even used when concluding a telephone conversation with an unseen person! This assurance of being seen again has replaced the familiar “Goodbye” (a contraction of “God be with you”). But is there perhaps an even better way to conclude an encounter?
Using a variety of electronic technologies—email, postal mail, smartphones, texting, Facebook and Twitter—we daily communicate with others, both family and friends. These have begun to replace visiting across the back fence, in the grocery store and even an actual home visit by an adult child. Computers are wonderful new tools, but shouldn’t such new technologies, like new drugs, undergo rigorous testing before being used by the public? Instead of welcoming new technologies like manna falling from an electronic heaven, shouldn’t they be scrutinized to find negative side-effects, long term consequences and addictive powers to enslave and even steal irreplaceable human pleasures, including our humanity?
Have no fear, such laboratory testing for computers is already a reality with the laboratory rats being today’s youth! Children who now no longer play out of doors but are glued constantly to computer screens are found to suffer from myopia! In just Seoul and Shanghai, 95 percent of children are now near-sighted! Not only children but also adults, by excessive use of electronic communication, now suffer from a spiritual myopia, the loss of sight of their basic human need for tangible contact.
“See you later” is a great-grandchild of Greek philosophy where Greek Platonist philosophers (who disdained the body’s animal nature) said the primary sense was sight. For Aristotle, however, it was touch, but he lost to the Platonists who deeply influenced early Christianity. Today we have inherited from the Greeks an unconscious prejudice against physical contact, so should you accidentally bump into someone, automatically you say, “Pardon me (for physically touching you)!”
After this short review of Greek thought on touch, here is my proposed new farewell after a visit, meal, or any time with friends or family. Instead of the sanitary, “See you later,” consider saying, “Let’s stay in touch!” And as you say it, reach out and actually touch the person! Touching is another way of saying poignant, stirring and heartrending…which describes how we are affected by all classic tragedies and great music. To touch another with love is the equivalent of an overture to a physical embrace in which bodies and spirits are bonded together.
Since “God is Love,” in leave-taking then to consciously with affection, touch or embrace another is a transformative act that consecrates a common, secular farewell silently into the sacred: “God be with you.”