I just had an experience that prompted me to shift my writing priorities and finish a book on Technology and Spirituality this month called Digitized: How Technology Shapes Us and What We Can Do About It. I”m truly honored to give keynotes and invited presentations to teachers, policymakers, school leaders and executives, boards, and many other people/groups. This speaking literally takes me around the world with trips last year to Australia, Hong Kong and Italy; and upcoming trips to Slovakia and Italy.
Yet, on Thursday of last week, there was something incredible about giving a presentation on the Spiritual Implications of Technology at the Athanatos Arts and Apologetics Conference. It was a small but wonderfully thoughtful group for this first year, and I pray that Dr. Anthony Horvath, the coordinator, considers it for a second year, as I will certainly help promote it.
Here is what I loved about my one day at the event. First, it was well-organized and Tony brought in some truly thoughtful and talented speakers and performers representing music, film and literature…not to mention other area. It was so much fun to interact with this small group of thinkers, artists, authors, and difference makers; all of who do not shy away from the wonderfully messy world of grappling with the intersection of faith and life in the contemporary world.
Second, it was authentic and high quality without having that sort of aloof or overly polished feel that I often experience at the large events where I keynote. I can get into those massive conferences with 50-foot screens and flashy lights, but it is also refreshing to interact with just as thoughtful and informed people under a tent in the middle of a North Wisconsin field with an impending thunderstorm demanding time on the stage. In fact, the storm did get on the stage, even musing out loud about blowing away the main tent. People just jumped into action, helped hold down the poles, and continued the conversation. In fact, I had a great chat with an old friend holding a wooden pole that kept coming out of place. You don’t get that sort of action at SXSWEdu, the Education Innovation Summit, or the annual ISTE event. In fact, I contend that the storm, while taking us off schedule a bit, made the event that much better. Maybe we should check with the big guy about scheduling that as a regular part of future versions of the festival.
Third, it reconnected me with my love of apologetics, a Christian perspective on the humanities, presuppositional and literary apologetics, and more. It challenged me to think about how I can create more time in my life and writing for some of these topics. I have no intention of abandoning what I consider to be my calling to exploring the intersection of education and entrepreneurship, futures in education, and challenging all of us to further explore the possibilities for life and learning in a connected world. It is just that part of my personal story and convictions about life in a connected world is a deeply spiritual one, and this event reminded me not to let go of that, to think out loud (and on screen/paper) about that. As a mentor and friend once told me. “We learn too late their our convictions matter.”
I realize that I have colleagues and collaborators across a wide spectrum of beliefs, contexts and worldviews. I love that exchange and value these many relationships. I learn so much from this diverse group, and we have many ideas in common. I also realize that what I will write about the spiritual dimension of life in the contemporary world will not resonate with some of you, just as not all of my articles do right now. I just think it is great that we’ve all built connections that don’t break us into little ideological clans. There is something important about crossing borders, engaging in rich and lively conversation, and sharing a mutual interest in the pursuit of truth and wisdom for this age.
Finally, and very practically, this event was the push I need for me to move one of my “future writing projects” to the “write this now and get it out to the world” list, namely a topic that I’ve shared on for over a decade: Spirituality and Technology, certainly coming from my distinctly Lutheran/Christian vantage point. As such, I am going to set the goal of trying to get as close as possible as having a full draft of this book done by the end of August. That means about 40,000 – 50,000 words on that book in less than a month. Of course, I have several speaking appointments this coming month (including a week international trip) and full days of work to balance, but I think this is a reasonable goal. I basically need to average 2500 words a day to hit this goal, but I love and know the topic well, so it is within the realm of possibility. Worst case, I make much more progress than I did in the last decade, and I finish it up this fall. I’m going to go with the working title of Digitized: How Technology Shapes Us and What We can Do About It.