The Curiosity Vacuum

Last week I slumped at my gate in an airport. Bored. Twenty-five more minutes until boarding, and I felt the tedium of the wait. How could I kill time? I tried Sudoku, then reading email, then Solitaire, but boredom and the noisy terminal distracted me.

Waiting-in-Airport r1

I checked out noise-canceling headphones in a gadget store, but I couldn’t choose. I sagged back in line. Only twenty more minutes of monotony. My watch seemed to run backwards.

 

Two old women behind me discussed the evils of the internet. I yawned. Heard it all before.

Then one woman said, “The biggest problem with the internet is that it kills curiosity. We used to search for answers; now we just find information. The joy of the quest is dead.”

I sat up. My own curiosity was sparked and I began to wonder. I liked it. I recently read this,

Digital technologies are severing the link between effort and mental exploration … By making it easier for us to find answers, the Web threatens habits of deeper inquiry.*

Curiosity killed the cat. And soul-less (satisfaction starved) information is killing our curiosity.

Spiritual Lobotomy

I recently heard a Christian speaker say, “Thinking is the devil’s territory; I just want to experience God.” He continued, “Hearing God is a totally right-brained activity. We need to turn off our analytical thinking and lean into our intuition.”

He’s wrong, totally wrong, and dangerously wrong. But I think (oops, I feel) that I understand his dismissal of the analytical. He is reacting.

He’s reacting to the modern era’s enthronement of reason. In the modern age (which began with the Enlightenment), rational thinking became the epicenter, the very essence, of humanity. So Descartes—a prominent rationalist—penned his famous declaration, “I think therefore I am.”

http://www.cartoonaday.com/

http://www.cartoonaday.com/

Many people (including the speaker above) react against crowning reason as king. They see too many “intellectual” Christians who spend too many hours studying supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism* (who makes these terms up?); such highbrows might hold right doctrine, but they often live harsh, anxious, and miserable lives. Something isn’t working.

So nowadays we reject reasoning. Instead we feel, intuit, or “just believe” because it “seems right.” We prefer the right-brain, we choose imagination over discernment (unless the discernment is based on a gut feel), and we leave thinking to those brainiac eggheads.

The Enlightenment divorced the heart. Today we chop off the head. Both approaches are stupid. Divorcing the heart doesn’t help us think better, and a lobotomy doesn’t help us feel better.

Guillotining the head is not an improvement over stabbing the heart.

The Delusion of Doctrine

For much of human history, people have been executed because of their beliefs. These people weren’t killed for antisocial behavior (like murder, rape, or treason); they were slain simply because of their inner-conviction about reality.

We’re more tolerant today. That’s good. I don’t want to be burned alive because I believe that Android phones are better than iPhones (though I confess to liking roasted Apples…).

It’s right we abandon belief-based execution, but remember those who experienced it. Thousands of men and women willingly suffered slaughter without recanting. They believed so strongly, they wouldn’tMonk pretend to deny their beliefs; even to save their lives.

Today, though, doctrine is scorned. We imagine cloaked monks, closeted in their dusty cloisters, penning abstract dogmas on “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” I once asked dozens of people what they thought of doctrine. They boldly proclaimed:

  • Doctrine, schmoctrine; God only wants us to love each other.
  • Doctrine is about the head; I believe in the heart.
  • Doctrine divides; it’s more important to find what unites.
  • Thinking is the devil’s territory; let’s just experience God.

The thing is, each of these statements is a doctrine. (The belief that “God only wants us to love each other” is called the doctrine of Salvation by Works.) But would you die for your doctrine that, “Thinking is the devil’s territory”? I think not. Dorothy Sayers wrote,

In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair … the sin that believes in nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive simply because there is nothing for which it will die (Creed or Chaos, slightly edited).

We don’t need to be burned at the stake. Our shallow convictions about reality are death. The problem with doctrine is that we all have them; few of us admit it; and it’s killing us.