Recovering our Role as Cultivators of Creation

With this post we introduce an occasional series featuring the work of our students. In this installment, one of our upper school students, Drew Mercantini, reflects on the impact of modern technology on our relationship to the creation we have been called to cultivate. The excerpt is drawn from a paper submitted for the class Faith in the Digital Age. 

[I]t is important to understand just what we are, in relation to this great realm of technology. Because technology is not just a tool or a composite object, it reaches out and shapes us in ways we rarely, if ever, perceive. We have noticed how phones draw us in and transform us into users, absorbed into the virtual realms of messaging and Facebook. But we do not really notice the effect that a camera has on us. We become a creature that looks for photos to be taken. This in turn impacts how we connect with the world, since how we perceive what is beautiful in creation is by what comes through our phone screen or camera lens. This is just one example of course, but the principle still stands. We use technology to affect the world, but it in turn affects us […]

Finally, it is crucial to understand how powerful technology is and how much it goes beyond any of us as individuals. Technology is far more encompassing and far more integrated into our lives than we currently think. We cannot stop the world from using technology, nor would we know how to. Technology is just far too integrated for any hopes of simply evicting it from our lives. Moreover, technology has become almost self sustaining, having developed into a plethora of complex systems. Technology at this point is incomprehensible, and most definitely uncontrollable.

The crux and goal of modernity, of the new science, of the emphasis on the mind, the modern search for authenticity, the therapeutic, of our whole endeavor into technology and culture is this: We have become the cultivated, not the cultivators.

We have shirked our mandate and marching orders, and have been put in the place of the thing we are called to serve. Our postmodern condition is really just the thorough naturalization of this mindset which arose some centuries prior. At root, this is what has led to the rise of the therapeutic, the search for authenticity and identity. We rely on the non-human portions of creation to cultivate us. This inversion has cost us dearly, causing us to wander, lost like never before. These things are sub-human and impotent in their efforts and eventually unsatisfactory in their powers. And yet, we persist in our consumption, certain that the solution lies in the manipulation of the creation for the service of man.

We are stagnant, nearly motionless, having creation broken down and packaged for our consumption. This is remarkably anti-biblical, and we now realize the genuine path we must follow.  As it is outlined for us, we must be the cultivators. We must shape and grow and mature the creation in light of its God-given order. For we can fully satisfy the needs of the sub-human portions of reality, not the other way around. The solution to our emptiness, to our desire for identity and authenticity, is the inverse of the inverse: we must assume again the role of cultivators rather than the cultivated. We must turn back to our first way, reverse the positions, and act as we ought to. We seem to be farther from our God than ever before.  And to reverse this we must reverse ourselves. This calls for a life of servanthood that challenges our pride and individuality. This calls for a sharp and passionate movement to break us free and clear of our stagnancy. This calls for a level of patience that overcomes our inability to be still. And above all, this calls for a level of love that will strike at the core of our habitually hardened hearts.

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