Browsers versus explorers

The new virtual craze of Pokemon Go has attracted much publicity in recent weeks, both good and bad. The ‘i’ generation has yet another game to play, another screen to use, another distraction from real exploration. There is a big difference between those who browse and those who explore life. Jesus was a natural explorer, not only of his known world but an explorer of mystery and the invisible realm of existence.  Like many explorers, Jesus risked his life in his search.  Yet this was not an exercise about pitching resilience against survival.  Jesus’ example was to demonstrate the nature of spiritual formation, to explore life at all levels from different perspectives, in other words, to live life in all of its fullness.

Although digital devices, if used in the right way, are a wonderful educative resource, they can also be a divisive weapon which blunts an exploratory approach to life.
Although digital devices, if used in the right way, are a wonderful educative resource, they can also be a divisive weapon which blunts an exploratory approach to life.

I wonder if it might be possible to categorize the current generation of young people into those who are prone to browsing and those who are more naturally inclined to explore.  The inference is made in the context of the age, a time in which the internet has affected ‘the way that we do things’, especially in commerce and industry, in family life, and in education and training.

I have experienced the profound effect that the internet has on children’s learning.  Information has never been more easily accessible.  While this is a great gift, the information often leads to saturation as the mind is flooded by distractive and sometimes destructive paths of enquiry.  For example, some students regard cutting and pasting from a website as a legitimate response to a question set for homework.  Browsers are happy to have a simulated experience rather than an actual experience of life.

The cut and paste generation, those who choose not to immerse themselves in an integrated search of mind and spirit, are further enticed by a virtual world in the form of video games and internet sites.  Yet this virtual world is one that has been created and is maintained by adults. A significant challenge for today’s adults is therefore to encourage a spirit of exploration and independence in childhood. It seems that there exists a resistance in contemporary society to go to the primary source, to travel to the place of initiation of thoughts and beliefs.  The temptation to live this cut and paste experience is increasing. The danger is that the real learning, which comes from physical, intellectual and spiritual exploration, is being subsumed into a culture of superficiality. Prayer is the deepest source of knowledge which leads to wisdom and action. There is no alternative to simply turning off the devices and tuning in to God’s silence.

(This article has been cut and pasted from the publication, Called by Mind & Spirit, Crossing the Borderlands of Childhood – for more details about this book, click on the image of the book in the right hand column. Sometimes we all need to cut and paste, but only the things that are important to us and to our spiritual development!)

Author: Gavin Knight

The Revd Gavin Knight has been the Vicar of St Michael & All Angels, Summertown in the Oxford Diocese since September 2011. After serving his title at St Alphege, Solihull, Gavin became parish priest of St Andrew's Fulham Fields in London. He moved to Wales in 2005 becoming Chaplain to Monmouth School. He is married to Jo, a clinical psychologist, and they have three sons.