I just finished reading a book, the most recent work from a teacher I have worked with and admire.  She’s a well respected academic who was a pivotal member of those women in the 60’s working in San Francisco reimagining spirituality and reconnecting with women’s embodied sense of the world and our place in it.  She’s got an amazingly insightful mind with tons of space for remembering every fact she comes across and making meaning from them in ways that continue to amaze me.

And I was really looking forward to this new work she had produced as I hadn’t worked with her for a while and it wasn’t the book I expected her to put out.  When I studied with her she was working on a book looking at spirituality as expressed by modernist artists and I helped her with some of that research.  But this book is about relational reality, something I’ve been studying in my off moments from the perspective of psychology and the research that has been going on for the past 40 years showing that the models for the healthy psychology of humans is actually the psychological make-up of men which doesn’t fit women.  So for 40 years women have been seen, as many have experienced, as broken or pathologized because they don’t fit this model.  A new model is emerging and the discussions are fascinating because they are moving from us/them and ‘separate but equal’ to interconnected or ‘relational’ and informing each other.  Neither needs to be wrong and both need each other.  The challenge is to see what that looks like in practice.

Ahem….anyway, like I said, I’ve been delving into that in my spare time.  As it’s something that has interested me for decades and is part of the Masters program I started a few years ago, I was excited to hear what my teacher had to say.  Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.  Not with what she had to say, which was eloquent as usual and full of facts and studies and research, but in how it was said.  Because the book, instead of looking at how we are relational, pointing out practical ways that we can become more relational, or seeing how our relational natures have grown and changed, was a wholesale condemnation of technology.  It was full of black and white thinking that was showed technology (cell phones, social media, video games, the internet, apple products) as bad and corrupting society from childhood on up and that only returning to a life without technology will allow us to become relational once again.

Not only this, but the tone of the book was harsh, ugly, didactic and unencouraging.  I kept flipping through pages trying to find something positive, practical, something that the reader to could do or would get them to engage with the material, but found nothing.  Sweeping proposals to change US school systems, remove technology, reinvent the healthcare system, change to Green Politics and become ecologically conscious in all of our actions made the book seem like a political stump speech and I’ve had enough of that this season.   What she proposed was impractical, a Luddite’s dream to return to a golden age that never was.  A cry to stop changing when our society is changing, not necessarily for the better, but changing nonetheless.  And all organisms must change to meet their own needs and fit into their environment.  This is the nature of life.  It’s relational.

Technology is not going away and I don’t believe that it needs to.  It is still in its infancy and we are still learning what that means for all of us as we continue to live and thrive.  It’s not evil any more than axes or curling irons are evil.  They are tools and we use them.  The outcomes can be deemed evil or good in relation to all the other forces in play and our sense of reality, which in itself changes moment to moment.  Black and white thinking, either/or choices, and the thought structures that try to make things into opposites is something that I hope one day will become the exception and not the rule because thinking relationally helps us break down those imposed divisions and work practically with all the options and opportunities in between the extremes.