By Dr. Donald DeMarco
St. John Paul II, at the Eighth World Youth Day in Denver, urged his audience “not to be afraid to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern ‘metropolis’.”
My venture into a particularly modernized segment of this “metropolis” is still fresh in my memory. The family iPad was in need of repair. Now responsibility for taking care of electronic gadgets usually falls to the man of the house even if he knows virtually nothing about how they work. I could not shirk my responsibility, daunting as it may be.
My bold adventure took me to an Apple Store which seemed to me more like a combination of a public library and a general hospital. The room was immense and festooned with sundry varieties of iPads and kindred electronic devices. The techies were sporting uniforms inspired by Star Trek. I looked with awe at these high priests, wizards, magicians, wonder-workers, electronic sorcerers. They were everywhere but more concentrated at an area in the store called the “Genius Bar.”
A helper added to my sense of being an alien on planet iPad by conferring upon me the humbling status of a “walk-in.” This meant a longer wait. She then selected a stool for me to sit on and told me to stay there for 45 minutes.
Was it a punishment or a promise? I was not sure. Nonetheless, I was grateful that a dunce cap was not placed on my head. I meditated on the disparity between the shamans at the “Genius Bar” and the patrons who were perched on what I thought of as “stools for fools.”
At long last I was promoted to another stool, one at the “Genius Bar.” Were these helpers truly geniuses, I asked myself. They were mostly young people who had learned things about which the layman knows virtually nothing. It was the gap, I decided, and not their ingenuity, that made them appear to be geniuses.
I chatted amiably with another customer as we shared our mutual sense of ignorance and helplessness. For us, we were perched at the “Idiot Bar.” A new caste system was in effect that clearly separated “those who know” from “those who do not know.”
I reflected on climbing my personal electronic Seven Storey Mountain. First, I had the sense that I neither wanted nor needed computers of any kind. Soon thereafter came the realization that I could not do without them. Quickly, they became a central part of my life; and then, the crashes and the need for repair. Following that came the feeling of helplessness and the complete reliance on the tech experts. Finally, the repairs and the recover. I was now a full-fledged netizen of the World Wide Web.
A most cordial tech expert diagnosed my iPad’s problem and learned that it needed a software update. I was no longer downcast. The updating resolved the problem. I thanked my tech expert profusely and, thanks to his wizardry, was able to bring my wonder box home in good health.
“The development of science and technology,” St. John Paul wrote in his encyclical, The Splendor of Truth, “does not free humanity from the obligation to ask religious questions. Rather it spurs us on to face the most painful and decisive struggles, those of the heart and of the moral conscience.”
Because science and faith are compatible, even complementary, a deeper knowledge of science can bring about a deeper awareness of faith.
When Steve Jobs, cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Apple Inc., first introduced the iMac in 1998, he proclaimed that the “i” stood for Internet. He later went on to say that it also refers to “individual,” “instruct,” “inform,” and “inspire.” Other Apple products include the iPhone, iPod, iCal, and iLife. All this is not without some religious implication.
It is astonishing to me that WiFi, an invisible source of subtle electronic energy, can activate an iPad. This fact should make it easier for people to believe in the reality of grace.
Romano Guardini makes the following comment in his book, Freedom, Grace, and Destiny: “The whole process by which God has approached man with his free benevolence, spoken to him, raised him up to a special personal association with himself, and given him a vitality proceeding from God’s very life – all this is grace, in the proper sense.”
Divine grace, invisible, but effective, allows a person to operate as he should. So, too, WiFi energy, also invisible but effective, allows an iPad to do what it is supposed to do. God’s grace is to man as WiFi energy is to the iPad.
For Msgr. Guardini, divine grace is like sunshine in that it comes from afar and makes it possible for us to see things in their truth: “As long as man remains in the radiance of grace, the ‘graciousness’ of creation is anchored in the truth.”
Many believe that technology and rationalism have made it more difficult for people to believe in religion. Yet, what are sometimes referred to as the “miracles of science” can provide good reasons for faith. WiFi creates an atmosphere that is analogous to a blessing. The Apple Store, in a sense, is blessed because of the capabilities it confers upon iPads. A house can be blessed in a religious sense because of the good it confers on its inhabitants.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away, as the saying goes. But I gained from my bold adventure a different thought: An Apple a day puts God’s grace on display.
Dr. Donald DeMarco is a senior fellow of Human Life International. Reprinted with permission from the Nov. 5 edition of The Wanderer.