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Paying Attention

In Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird, there is a chapter called “Looking Around.” It’s about how a writer’s or artist’s job is to notice things and then somehow capture and deliver what we notice to our audience. The goal is to help everyone see the world as a little brighter, a little more spacious, and a little more sacred. But it all starts with paying attention. My favorite quote from the chapter is this:

“When what we see catches us off guard, and when we write about it as realistically and openly as possible, it offers hope. You look around and say, Wow there’s that same mockingbird; there’s that woman in the red hat again. The woman in the red hat is about hope because she’s in it up to her neck, too, yet every day she puts on that crazy red hat and walks to town” (Lamott, 1994, p. 101).

Noticing things - like the lady in the red hat - helps us view the world with more reverence. Ordinary things become sacred when we are made to notice them.

In regard to the Bible, Kwok Pui-lan* says that "Scripture now appears in hypertext format, with links to all kinds of information and Web sites. The reader can read a few lines, surf other sites, and check out video clips, thereby creating her own domain of knowledge and context of knowing." In other words, the digital Bible is merely a sacred homebase from which to explore the rest of the world. It can be used as a central hub from which infinite networks - via hyperlink - branch outward.

This makes me wonder...

Does the Bible - a sacred text - existing in a digital world, as digital hypertext, actually help us to better understand the "secular" world as "sacred?" Does this ability to hop from sacred text to other website to photo gallery to wikipedia help expand the concept of sacredness in our minds?

It’s easy to spend our time thinking about whether the digital age diminishes the sacredness of sacred text. BUT the artist in me - the person who believes the answer lies in simply paying better attention - wonders if the ability to jump to the "secular" with the click of a hyperlink within a sacred text might actually help me notice the innate sacredness in what otherwise might be considered secular.

In other words: In this digital age of digital bibles, are we making something sacred less sacred? Or are we making the secular more sacred? Both?

Leave your thoughts in the comments!

*Kwok Pui-lan, “Holy Bible 3.0: Scripture in the Digital Age” in Reflections: A Magazine of Theological and Ethical Inquiry from Yale Divinity School, 2008.

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