Christian Wiman on Technology, Anxiety and God

Posted on Feb 12, 2015  in Life  | No Comments

Christian Wiman is a famous American poet and author. He serves as the editor of Poetry magazine and teaches literature and religion at Yale. Wikipedia notes his pedigree:

His poems, criticism, and personal essays appear widely in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, and The New Yorker.1

In recent past he found out “…he had a rare, incurable and unpredictable cancer.” In response to the news, Wiman wrote a book called My Bright Abyss, in which he is ” is relentless in his probing of how life feels when one is up against death.”2 Recently a friend shared a quote from the book with me that has been ringing in my head for the past few days. It is an incredibly salient account of the intersection of technology, anxiety and spiritual things:

At dinner with friends the talk turns, as it often does these days, to the problem of anxiety: how it is consuming everyone; how the very technologies we have developed to save time and thereby lessen anxiety have only degraded the quality of the former and exacerbated the latter; how we all need to “give ourselves a break” before we implode. Everyone has some means of relief—tennis, yoga, a massage every Thursday—but the very way in which those activities are framed as apart from regular life suggests the extent to which that relief is temporary (if even that: a couple of us admit that our “recreational” activities partake of the same simmering, near-obsessive panic as the rest of our lives). There is something circular and static to our conversation, which doesn’t end so much as fizzle indeterminately out, and though there is always some comfort in comparing maladies, I am left with the uneasy feeling that my own private anxieties have actually increased by becoming momentarily collective—or no, not that, increase by not becoming collective, increased by the reinforcement of my loneliness within a collective context, like that penetrating but enervating stab of self one feels sometimes in an anonymous crowd. It is a full day later before it occurs to me that not once, not in any form, not even with the ghost of a suggestion, did any of us mention God.

1. You can more about Christian Wiman and his work on Wikipedia.2. You can read a wonderful review of My Bright Abyss from the New York Times.

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