Saturday, January 31, 2009

Clay Burell, Quaker meetings, and knowledge

I am a huge fan of Clay Burell, now over at; he also has a wonderful blog Beyond School where he attacks schooliness and ragged thinking while bringing to life classics such as Gilgamesh.

He recently posted a (justified) attack against a recent Science Daily article that highlighted a study that suggested that newer technologies had a hand in declining critical thinking skills. It's worth reading.

Still, the disciples of the high tech crowd did not disappoint this "reactionary clock-turn-backer" with their crowing. So I responded.

I wanted to carry a small piece of my words back here:
It's been awhile since I sat in a Friends (Quaker) meeting. The local meeting is unprogrammed, which means we sit silently for an hour or so. Occasionally someone will speak if so moved, but most times little (blessedly) is said.

The first few minutes I am incredibly twitchy, and cannot settle down until I remember I cannot settle down by trying, then am content to watch the sun beam creep across the bench in front of me.

I stare out a window looking at a tree. A few telephone lines run by it--I think about the tremendous amount of information that passes through those lines every minute. Then I think about the tree.

Both are marvelous things, the human wire, the mystery of trees, and both hold vast amounts of knowledge. The wire is ultimately knowable, the tree ultimately not.

I'm more interested in the tree, because it's more interesting.

The tree picture is from the University of Florida Urban Forestry program found here.


CB said...

Of course the tree's more interesting than me. I'm a pup compared to it.

Seriously, I agree the whole virtualverse of cyber-Babel is shot through with ambivalence for me. On the bright side, I've never felt more mentally and spiritedly alive than I have in the last two years in this space. On the dark side, I'm addicted to it.

But at least it's an active addiction - unlike America's number one addiction, which I'm blessedly free of: that soul-sucking monster of passivity called the boob tube.


doyle said...

I wasn't talking about you, I was talking about all the gigadatabytes traveling through the wire.

I put you/us right up there (or down there) with anything else busy glomming energy from the sun in some form or another, buzzing or blooming or just being.

It's your ambivalence that makes your stuff glow.