God writes straight with twists and turns

Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Fr Lewi Barakat (at right) offer Mass in an empty St Mary’s Cathedral while thousands watch online from their homes. SCREENSHOT/ Archdiocese of Sydney

‘Tis said that the digital tech and the internet, and their addictive cohorts such as the electronic processes, apps, and the social media, if unchecked, can cause a disruption to our youth’s education – and therefore, “crooked online.” ‘Tis said that virtual reality is just an escape from real problems and that a virtual world is a poor replacement for the authentic one.

During social isolation to “flatten the curve,” quite oddly, “connectivity” evolves to the next level of getting “formed and informed” to the higher level of “sociocentrism,” thus making me understand a bit why the Portuguese people have a proverb Deus escreve direito em linhas tortas, which I paraphrase, please forgive me (Bryan Adams), as “God writes straight with crooked online.” The “online” I now realize is not crooked, as in Machiavellian, after all.

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First, “connectivity.” Doesn’t it feel good that the community quarantine makes you sit down a bit longer and catch up better with far-away friends and family via real-time chats or live rap sessions, activities that you previously relegated for tomorrow for lack of time? As if God is using the internet to pull us together than push us apart? What a lovely feeling to find my inboxes flooded with invitations to online events, yoga lessons, Bible reflection sessions, cooking classes, and virtual dinner parties.

So far and yet so near. I suddenly thought of my brother who’s down under in Auckland and his daughter, my niece, in Sydney, and our video chat ended with “love you tons, see you soon, keep safe, my prayers.” I must confess, the video chat was longer and warmer than usual and, I guess, the same is true with millions of OFWs stranded in their workstations elsewhere. In social distancing, global citizens seem more connected and prayerful than ever. Quite amazing.

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Second, “formed and informed.” Ordinary students learn new languages or play musical instruments online and world-class educators offer online lessons, which otherwise would be unavailable unless you attend their classes in some hard-to-reach universities.

Technologists, subject-matter specialists, researchers, and educators are grateful for the most evasive commodity called time, for suddenly they are bestowed with the vast, almost infinite, opportunities to go in-depth or comprehensive. We discover that a lot of what we search for (hard-to-find original documents, missing sources, antediluvian manuscripts, lost formula, et cetera) are actually available online as e-library materials, a chapter of an e-book or peer-reviewed e-journals, and archival e-documents. Even antiquated authors I know are learning to navigate the cyber universe to search for the all-important sources, deemed critical to complete their unfinished opuses.

Requests for my e-books are swelling. More folks, who can’t avail of bookstores and Amazon for the moment, are now reading my e-books. And the most consoling part is receiving feedback from them, for “feedback (good or bad) is the breakfast of champions.”

Yes, it’s called lifelong learning when, huh, senior priests are forced to use the digital technology to livestream their Masses and Eucharistic benedictions. Huh, more cardinals, bishops, and older religious sisters acquire the skills to travel through the “digital continent,” finally acknowledging that the internet is the best alternative means of the new evangelization and, given this extremely “crooked” situation, the best handyman tool to bring Jesus Christ to others. Omnia A.M.D.G! All for the greater glory of God!

Finally, “sociocentrism.” We’re now seeing the humanitarian dimension of the digital culture as sociocentric tendencies replace egocentric ones and online concerts by local artists replace unserviceable selfies. With bigger time and smaller space called home, parents switch from “I’m-busy” mode to direct supervision 24/7 of their children, who can’t move their bowels without tablets or smartphones.

Almost every news is COVID-19-related and our kids get to understand better that the best Filipino doctors are dead because they performed their duties without hesitation and made the ultimate sacrifice to save others. Our children realize that front liners are indispensable, their services to humankind irreplaceable, and that they are bigger than all trapos combined and braver than all Frank Miller or Stan Lee-created heroes.

Through the social media, the Filipino nation get to distinguish who the real heroes, living saints, and dedicated martyrs are, who among our leaders walk their talk and who among them only talk, and who lead extraordinarily well in extraordinary times and who are “weighed but come up short,” tinimbang ngunit kulang.

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Indeed, the Almighty God writes straight with twists and turns.

Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano (http://www.wordcon.ph/wordcon-speakers) is the author of 24 PLUS CONTEMPORARY PEOPLE: God Writing Straight with Twists and Turns (Claretian, 2019) and MDXXI (1521): 500 YEARS Roman Catholic (Claretian, 2020).

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TAGS: coronavirus, online communication, religion and internet, social media
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