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The Scent of Lemons Paperback – 16 Nov 2012
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Jonah Lynch addresses one of the most fundamental contradictions of mankind's searching: that our capacity to build new worlds is not always matched by our ability to understand how much they enrich our lives and our knowledge of reality. --John Waters, Journalist, Magazine Editor and Columnist
This book is brimming with insights that show how technology shapes our concrete, everyday patterns of being and consciousness. A fascinating study. --David Schindler, editor of Communio: International Catholic Review
'Highly readable' --The Furrow
'This book offers an excellent way...to start...discussions about the challenges of technology and how we can ensure that technology remains a tool and does not determine the way we think and govern our lives'. --REtoday
'a very welcome publication...well worth getting hold of'. --Dominicans Interactive
About the Author
Jonah Lynch was born in the United States and now lives in Rome. He is a seminarian and an avid technophile. This is his sixth book.
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Such thoughts are marshalled by technophile priest Jonah Lynch under a title that applauds the touch, scent and taste of lemons, three senses that cannot be transmitted by technology. Based in Rome Lynch tells of how his attempt to care for lemon trees brought to light an impatience bred from his involvement in the speedy processes of electronic technology. Such involvement builds us as hunters searching for data but detracts from the patient and deep attention required as in farming. Attention is an extraordinary and vital tool of the human spirit. Its diffusing and fragmenting among internet users is of great concern.
Lynch celebrates the way his missionary order has effortless international conferences on the internet. All such good virtual contact brings an inevitable `disincarnating' through the nature of net relationships. Laughing among friends bears no comparison with writing `hahahaha' on a chat screen. The internet is guilty of an extreme materialisation, as in pornography. `After having reduced the infinite beauty of loving relationships to a pure physical mechanism, we are decomposing them into the banal virtuality of a group of pixels on a back-lit screen'. A recently opened clinic for internet addicts tackles five online addictions: pornography, gambling, information overload, social networks and role-playing games.
Where is God in this? `The human person made in the image and likeness of the One and Triune God is made for communion. This explains the extraordinary growth of Facebook, which interprets this ultimate desire. But what does Facebook do with it? Friends become a quantity...close friends, simple acquaintances, and ex-girlfriends are all on the same level.' Lynch reflects further on the harshness of the internet. Like the mind of God it records everything but unlike a merciful God can use memory of every detail against us even when we lament of our errors.
The book ends with illustrations of how the author, a seminary Rector, employs forms of `technological fast' to help his ordinands build their prayer life and friendships. Interpersonal relationships in the flesh, small and local communities, are seen as the key to human and church vitalisation, to be served and not replaced by virtual networking. The book ends rather in the air. Having presented the technological crisis so vividly, few answers are provided. This is both indicative of how new the challenge is and also a timely incentive to personal and corporate reflection and action to master technology before it masters us.
Whether there is freedom or bondage experienced through the addictive nature of Facebook and it's endless stream of media offerings. Here is is central to the engagement about social compulsions in Jonah Lynch's continuation of the prophetic work of Henri Nouwen. With so much on offer, Lynch navigates the inherent folly of letting technology prescribe the terms and conditions of our lives. At the heart of Lynch's writing is the penetrating truth that three of five senses; touch, scent and taste cannot ever be engaged with by technological means.
Mythology, research and reflection are well woven here in a great write about the gains and challenges of the technological gifts of our age, in this insightful new book. Masks are removed through the unveiling of detail, aching truth, raw implications and inevitable addictions. These are all laid bare. My only gripe is that by the time we strike chapter nineteen Jonah Lynch might have offered us more than just a technological fast, as a remedy in the face of available in our pacey, all-access culture. There is much of beauty and another kingdom in the closing words; "power is love."
This pacey, incisive, compact book offers much. As Lynch invites, "Being is gift, not robbery. Being is love."
This is not a tiresome or hysterical "the internet is evil"-type read, but a much more considered meditation on how we are literally changed by technology. Probably the most interesting sections look at how the multitasking afforded by smart phones and laptops etc. actually alters neuronal connections in the brain. Confirming many people's fears, the ability to concentrate deeply is being reduced by online diversions. The book also reminds us that digital objects are representations of the 'real thing' and considers the meaning of this. The dark implications of the mismatch between your digital and actual self are looked at too.
Highly thought-provoking and definitely recommended.
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