Post Author: Bill Pratt
I own an iPhone 5. My family owns an iPad, two iPhone 4s, and multiple iPods. Oh, and we bought a Google Nexus 7 tablet for Christmas. We also have DirecTV with whole home DVR capability. This list could go on for a while – believe me.
I love technology, and, in fact, I work in the semiconductor industry. Semiconductor technology, in particular, has revolutionized our modern lifestyle, enabling all that is electronic in the world.
But what is the purpose of it all? Sometimes we forget that all of these gadgets are means to an end. The gadgets are not ends in themselves. The technology that produces these gadgets is also not ultimately an end in itself. The science that produces the technology that produces the gadgets is also not an end in itself.
With all of the gadgets surrounding us today, we sometimes forget what the purpose of all of it is. Our ancient ancestors, however, saw things a lot more clearly than we do today. They weren’t nearly as distracted as we are.
Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the thirteenth century, considered the answers that people of his day gave to the question: “What brings ultimate happiness to a person’s life?” Here are the answers:
- bodily health
- wisdom and virtue (goods of the soul)
Notice the order. After studying each of these 8 answers, Aquinas listed them in order of least important to most important. Where are you spending your time?
Are you obsessed with building wealth? Aquinas would say that you are way off the mark – not even close to what brings ultimate happiness.
What about bodily health? We are clearly a culture obsessed with health. We want to postpone death as long as possible. But bodily health is not the ultimate good.
Of the earthly goods, wisdom and virtue are the highest, and the world would certainly be a profoundly better place if everyone used their technology to pursue them, but Aquinas argued that even wisdom and virtue miss the mark.
The only thing that our soul yearns for more than anything else is to know and experience the Perfect Good. According to Aquinas, the Perfect Good of man, the thing that will give him ultimate happiness, cannot be something which was created:
It is impossible for any created good to constitute man’s happiness. For happiness is the perfect good, which lulls the appetite altogether; else it would not be the last end, if something yet remained to be desired. Now the object . . . of man’s appetite is the universal good. . . . Hence it is evident that naught can lull man’s will, save the universal good. This is to be found, not in any creature, but in God alone.
Consider what Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matt 6:33)
Speaking to God, St. Augustine said “Thou has made us for thyself and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee.”
C. S. Lewis advised, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”
Put your technology in its place. You can certainly use it to gain a modicum of wealth, honor and perhaps fame. Use it to gain power over your life. Use it to keep yourself healthy and provide recreation. Use it to gain wisdom and virtue.
But ultimately, all of that is less than nothing, a positive impediment, if you aren’t pursuing God.