I was reading this article about Walter Ong, who I knew only a little about, and I found this fascinating quotation at the end:
The spoken word, as we have seen, is primary, and yet from the start it was destinedor, in another way, doomedto be supplemented with all the devices and even gadgetry which have reduced it more and more to space. The predicament of the human word is the predicament of man himself. Its very flowering bears within itself evidence of its own limitations and eventual transmutation. The evolution of the media of communication, with the continuous psychological reorganization which this evolution entails, was implied from the very beginning by the structure of actuality.(Walter Ong, The Presence of the Word)
Now that I know Ong was a Catholic, I see his idea of “transmutation” possibly in a different light; originally, I would have assumed he was just being prescient and forecasting genetic engineering which, I am certain, will be at least partial for humans during my lifetime and eventually will be total. But now I wonder if he didn’t just mean the standard “spiritual” transformation that is expected of man in Christian theology. This, in turn, raises the question of whether the Christian notions of Original Sin and human imperfection lay the basic groundwork for the way we now imagine futuristic self-modification and genengineering.
Do the older theological concepts lay the groundwork for a kind of receptivity to changing ourselves, by convincing us, at the outset, that we are imperfect and in need of deep, fundamental change? I don’t know. Some of the Christians I know are among the strongest objectors to any kind fo genetic modification or even advanced tech implants (like a tooth phone, an idea I mentioned at the office to a certain degree of ridicule by people who, having been born long before the portable cell phone was even an idea, really ought to know better). Still, it seems to me that if someone can either reconcile being technologically or scientifically progressive (something I find Catholics tend to be better at than Protestants in general), or if one’s aesthetics are determined by exposure to these ideas despite that person professing no theological faith, then I think, perhaps, yes, there could be a connection.
And, because it’s a Christian online magazine, in the sidebar, I found a link to this very curious thing: an advertisement for a Lord of the Rings bible study document. Quite odd, that; while I appreciate it at least not being one of those Bible-Belt kneejerk screeds against the trilogy, citing the literary use of magic and resurrection and so on as proof of it being a Satanic text (which it obviously isn’t), I don’t understand why people can’t just accept the novels or movies on their own merit. Do people do Bible Study on the theme of, say, episodes of Friends or on the structure of grocery stores, or, hell, Jane Austen novels? Why there should be an attempt to view Lord of the Rings through a specifically Christian outlook is beyond me, when it’s clearly a work of literature.
Oh, wait, it costs $7.95 to download, or $12.95 with the combo Lord of the Rings/The Matrix Bible Study documents. Well, praise the Lord! That’s hilarious! Now I understand the motivation: it’s just profit.