BRIE STONER offers this reflection on Ilia Delio’s most recent blog entitled “Do We Make a Difference to God?”
Here Brie highlights some of Ilia’s key points and passages and offers additional thoughts and questions for consideration.
As a millennial, I have to agree that our generation interacts with technology in an unprecedented way in human history. The shifts that have occurred in the last 50 years mean that we as humans are now thinking in a radically different way; in fact, even our brains are shaped differently because of it. In a Huffington Post article in 2015, Carolyn Gregorie interviewed Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: How The Internet Is Changing Our Brains, who reflects upon the neurological impacts of our use of technology:
What psychologists and brain scientists tell us about interruptions is that they have a fairly profound effect on the way we think. It becomes much harder to sustain attention, to think about one thing for a long period of time, and to think deeply when new stimuli are pouring at you all day long… the price we pay for being constantly inundated with information is a loss of our ability to be contemplative and to engage in the kind of deep thinking that requires you to concentrate on one thing.
Has technology come to usurp the place of religion? Do younger generations use technology as a means of transcendence? And if we have transferred our religious sensibilities on to technology, are we aware that constant computer use is changing our capacity to remember, to think and to love?
Carr goes on to detail the way that technology is particularly impacting our memory:
….to move information from your conscious mind (what’s known as the working memory) into your long-term memory requires a process of memory consolidation that hinges on attentiveness…If you’re constantly distracted and taking in new information, you’re essentially pushing information into and out of your conscious mind. You’re not attending to it in a way that is necessary for the rich consolidation of memory.
What we do matters to God!
To posit such a loving dependency requires us to shift in how we think about God, and how we think about ourselves.
Teilhard’s evolutionary theology demarcates a shift away from the metaphysic of Platonic philosophy (with its corresponding dualism between matter and spirit) that much of Christian theology has adopted as its understanding of the cosmos. Rather than a platonic dualism between Divinity and Materiality, with the Transcendent pictured as incompatibly “above” and what is “gross-density” below, the incarnational evolutionary approach that Teilhard presents is a new understanding of God as transcendent within and calling us to greater wholeness from the future, ahead.
Take a minute to consider the implications of this shift:
- It means that we no longer view ourselves as corrupt, fallen, broken or “gross” matter, but rather as the very precious material stuff in which God desires to become manifest in!
- Stop and re-read that out loud to yourself until you can not just understand the words cognitively, but until you can feel it in sensation in your very body.
- What assumptions are you carrying around about your materiality? Your humanity? Your body?
- Could it be that the incarnation was always pointing to this astonishing revelation? That God desires to become manifest in you as you? In your choices, in your body, in your struggles, hopes and in who you become?
Such a mindful way of living is borne from the intuition that it’s not just us who are becoming, but that somehow our becoming impacts God too. As Ilia says:
There is a personal center to this universe-in-becoming…and we can name that personal center God. Indeed, we are part of God’s very life!
For Teilhard, centeredness and interiority are necessary for moral action because what we do makes a difference to God. Our worldly successes and failures make a difference to God….If God could not be really related to what goes on in creation, God would be less than perfect.
Our lives and our work therefore fill out God’s relational self.
As I reflect on this concept of personhood I often think of the relationship between the instruments and musicians that make up a symphony: while the individual skills of the musicians are unquestionable, it is their capacity to sensitively become an organic whole (or, we could say: to be membered to a larger whole!) that transforms a piece of music from being notes on a paper, to becoming an unforgettable, awe-inspiring experience.
Perhaps God is the symphonic masterpiece, eternally playing God’s very self through the instruments of our lives, vibrating through the sound of our very voices and resonated in the shape of our very bodies. This is what we mean by incarnation.
Imagine if a fourth chair violinist packed up his violin in the middle of the symphony. The violinist turns to him and asks, “Hey! What are you doing? The music isn’t finished yet!” The fourth violinist looks up from his packing, checking his phone distractedly and blankly asks, “what music?”…
Such is the malady of our individualism—and, sadly—how our memory has deteriorated with technology: we are forgetting our place in the unfolding symphony of life itself, the very life of God.
Brie Stoner is a mother of two boys, a Michigan dweller, musician, writer, student and 2015 graduate of the Living School for Action and Contemplation. Brie currently serves as a program designer for the Center for Action and Contemplation. She is enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary’s graduate program, and hopes to earn her M.A. continuing her studies on Teilhard de Chardin, whose work she regularly writes about on her own blog Becoming Ultra Human.
What do you think? Please share your take-aways, experiences, and questions in the Comments section below.