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"I know Kung-Fu"

Neo: "I know Kung-Fu"
Morpheus: "Show me"

Classic. (Shame I can't link to a legitimately-uploaded clip...)

When I first got a Kindle and began happily filling it with everything I'd ever had half a mind to read (fortunately my taste for old stuff means much of this is free) there was that inevitable moment where I thought "if only I could cut out the middle man -- wire my brain up and download direct", y'know, like in The Matrix. Now, I'm most certainly not disputing the pleasure of reading -- I'd save a choice selection to linger over the old-fashioned slow way. But there's so much information out there, and so little of it in my head! My computer screen, as well as my Kindle, bears testament to this frustrated greed for "knowledge" -- layer-upon-layer of browser windows, each packed to the edges with tabs, tracing a meandering, tenuously-linked train of thought through history, philosophy, literature, current affairs, poetry, cryptography... And (much to the amusement-slash-despair of Mr. W) I can't ever close them, cos one Wikipedia page can spawn several tens of children nodes, but I never quite shake the feeling that I wasn't quite done with the root.

At primary school, my voracious reading habits earned me the nickname Johnny Five -- ironic because, as a PG-certificate film, I wasn't actually allowed to watch Short Circuit till much later (hypothesis: said fondness for books not independent of said restricted entertainment options). This has not been an altogether consistent theme in my life -- I can recall a number of gaps between childhood and present day when I haven't really have the mental energy for words or thoughts and have been kinda grateful for the ability of mindless television to devour empty time... Right now, though, I'm well up for it, and all the missed time makes me even more fervently determined to make the most of a clear head by cramming it full of learning -- "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may", or whatever. I know I need to watch it, lest I mangle my head like I managed to mangle my tendon (by way of my similarly voracious running habits). [1] Besides, knowledge is not wisdom, and setting myself up as an "intellectual" would be one of the most foolish things I could do (hmm, make that "one of the most foolish things I do do"):
"Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:20-25)
But, granted that my love of learning is corruptible, it is not in itself a bad thing, I don't think (just as my discovery of running wasn't). Trouble is, I'm not (after all) a speed-reading robot. As for the Matrix short-cut: would I take it, if I could? To quote myself "The learning process equips you with knowledge, but it also builds character -- and since you can't effectively use knowledge without character, the process itself is crucial." [2] To quote Einstein "Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience." I guess we're saying pretty much the same thing. I said it first, of course -- or at least, I heard myself say it before I heard him say it, which I have opted to decide amounts to the same thing. Great minds think alike, and all that.

So, no. I guess I have accepted that there is a grappling involved in learning which turns information into knowledge and, by the grace of God, perhaps into wisdom if we submit to Him in the process.

I had a very interesting conversation with another Christian the other day about the Bible: "why a book?" Why would God choose to reveal Himself in words written down? In grappling with this particular question I came to consider that relationship requires information. Actually, wind that back a bit -- being requires information. That is what we are: bundles of DNA -- information encoded in matter. Oxford mathematician and Christian apologist John Lennox sees this as evidence for the hand of a Creator God behind the existence and nature of humanity:
"Incidentally, is it not to be wondered at that our archaeologist immediately infers intelligent origin when faced with a few simple scratches whereas some scientists, when faced with the 3.5 billion letter sequence of the human genome, inform us that it is to be explained solely in terms of chance and necessity?" God's Undertaker (2007) p.172
That is, information has to come from somewhere -- from a mind? I also found this extract interesting (I confess I haven't read this particular book yet but I have heard him talk about similar), because it helped clarify what I was trying to get at in terms of information and relationship:
"Of particular interest for our discussion is the statement, 'By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God's word, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.' This quotation from ancient biblical literature is remarkable in that it draws attention to a basic characteristic of information, namely, that information is invisible. The carriers of information may well be visible -- like paper and writing, smoke-signals, television screens or DNA -- but the information itself is invisible. Yet information is not only invisible: it is immaterial, is it not? You are reading this book; photons bounce off the book and are received by your eye, converted into electrical impulses and transmitted to your brain. Suppose you pass on some information from this book to a friend by word of mouth. The sound waves carry the information from your mouth to your friend's ear. from where they are converted into electrical impulses and transmitted into his brain. Your friend now has the information that originated in your mind, but nothing material has passed from you to your friend. The carriers of the information have been material, but the information itself is not material." God's Undertaker  (2007)  p.168
So, winding forwards again, and building on this idea of shared information: it seems to me you can't have a meaningful relationship with another (human) mind without it. Friendship (and enmity too for that matter) is all about discovering and processing information about another person, mingling it up with the information that makes us who we are, and deriving new information from the two sources combined. It is surprisingly hard: information communicated by our senses is easily misinterpreted. We mistake a facial expression, we interpret a comment in the light of some unconnected a priori feeling or experience, we take things personally when (probably) half the time the other person is too bound up in their own subjective wranglings to realise they were communicating anything at all, let alone anything hurtful...

The Bible then: a source of information about God, in order to facilitate relationship? In book form, because that has been the most reliable and duplicatable way of storing information for most of recent human history? (Oral tradition, which played some role in preserving parts of the Bible before they were written down, was at that time a respected and faithful means of storing information -- but we would never consider or treat it so in today's Western culture).

I do believe (and claim to have repeatedly experienced) that God reveals Himself in subjective, personal ways. But I am so grateful for the Bible -- a common source of information, collected and recorded over many years and drawing together the experiences and voices of multiple individuals. I am not sure how I would feel about using the word 'objective' to describe it, as it is literally impossible to come to a text without bringing ourselves to it at the same time, and I don't think we should underestimate the degree of subjectivity which that fact inevitably produces. (However, I don't think we should fear that fact: God knows our hearts, He wants our relationships with Him to be personal to us, and the Holy Spirit in us can illuminate our minds as we read His word so that our understanding is not, after all, entirely dependent on our individual selves). At any rate, in spite of the difficulties of interpretation, the Bible still represents a source of information which is external to ourselves, against which we can check our own experiences and ideas about who God is, and which is not the product of any individual 'mere man'. [3]

Once again I find myself coming back round to Psalm 119 -- an emphatic and joyful (and long) celebration of scripture (in this case, the Torah) and its centrality to relationship with God. Here are two stanzas (Beth and Taw) by way of example:
How can a young man keep his way pure?
    By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
    let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O Lord;
    teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
    all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
    as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
    and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
    I will not forget your word. (v9-16) 
Let my cry come before you, O Lord;
    give me understanding according to your word!
Let my plea come before you;
    deliver me according to your word.
My lips will pour forth praise,
    for you teach me your statutes.
My tongue will sing of your word,
    for all your commandments are right.
Let your hand be ready to help me,
    for I have chosen your precepts.
I long for your salvation, O Lord,
    and your law is my delight.
Let my soul live and praise you,
    and let your rules help me.
I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant,
    for I do not forget your commandments. (169-176)

[1] The book of Ecclesiastes has some warnings about this: "For in much wisdom is much vexation,
and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow." (Ecclesiastes 1:18) "Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness to the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12b).

[2] I said this once in a conversation, completely off the top of my head, and felt very profound and quotable. Unfortunately (by which of course I mean fortunately), I don't think anyone else noticed.

[3] I find it hard to see how anything short of the outrageous claims Jesus made could form the basis for following wholeheartedly after one man. Nietzsche, Marx, Confucius -- these people didn't even claim to be more than just another person. (Of course, for following Jesus to be a good idea it also has to hold that his claims are true).