Moonwalking with Jesus

Nonfiction - 100s - April 2011

Image by Pesky Library via Flickr

I recently finished reading the clever and thought-provoking book Moonwalking with Einstein. A non-fiction piece about Joshua Foer’s journey from eccentric journalistic interests to the U.S. Memory Championship, Moonwalking showcases not only the author’s story but also his journalistic fascination with facts. In one notable chapter entitled “The End of Remembering,” Foer details the path from a human population of memorizers to the world of ‘external memories’ we live in today.

We have more information accessible to us in a 2’x4′ smartphone than the most extensive libraries contained even 50 years ago. What is the point of remembering anything when you have Google? Why spend time and energy memorizing phone numbers when you can plug them into your contacts list? In fact, as Foer shares with us:

According to a survey conducted in 2007 by a neuropsychologist at Trinity College Dublin, fully a third of Brits under the age of thirty can’t remember even their own home land line number without pulling it up on their handsets. The same survey found that 30 percent of adults can’t remember the birthdays of more than three immediate family members. (138)

Truth be told, I don’t care that much that we can’t (or, more accurately, don’t) remember phone numbers anymore. What I am interested in is how this trend effects our souls.

Foer draws from the story in Plato’s Phaedrus wherein the Egyptian god, Theuth, inventor of writing, tries to sell the Egyptian king, Thamus, on his newfangled idea of putting reed pen to papyrus. Theuth tries to pitch his invention as a “recipe for both memory and wisdom.” But King Thamus is not buying it. Rather than hanging up on the quasi-divine telemarketer, he takes the time to explain his qualms:

If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls….They will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful….What you have discovered is a recipe not for memory, but for reminding. And it is no true wisdom that you offer your disciples, but only its semblance, for by telling them of many things without teaching them anything, you will make them seem to know much, while for the most part they will know nothing. And as men filled not with wisdom but with the conceit of wisdom, they will be a burden to their fellow-men. (138-9)

Now, Thamus may be coming on a little strong here for rhetorical effect. And even if he isn’t, I don’t buy the argument that the written word is inherently evil.  The guiding words of my life are written down in the Bible, and the remarkable consistency of those words through millenia gives continuity to the God-inspired faith practiced by Christians worldwide.

However, I couldn’t help but think of some of the passages in the Bible that recommend memorization of God’s Word:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. (Deuteronomy 6).

9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity?
By living according to your word.
10 I seek you with all my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
11 I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you. (Psalm 119)

When I was a kid, I was part of the Christian kid’s organization AWANA wherein I was required to memorize a bunch of random Scripture verses and was rewarding with titles and badges for varying levels of success. I memorized Scripture so that I could get the “Brave” or “Warrior” badge, or whatever.

As and adult, I have recently started memorizing parts of the Bible with a group of friends from seminary. First Philippians, now James. I am not getting any badges, but what I am receiving in inestimably more valuable.  Texts come alive as I live with them. God brings them to mind during everyday activities and teaches me things I never could learn from a sprint reading.

In an age when many of us have Bible apps on our iPhones, why memorize Scripture? Because the iPhone won’t buzz in your pocket when your life and a particular text align for a beautiful moment of inspiration and insight.  Let me leave you with Paul’s prayer for the Philippian church–a prayer that I can’t help but think will be answered at least to some degree if you take some time to chew on, absorb, and retain God’s Word:

And this is my prayer: that your love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best, and may be pure and blameless on the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

4 Responses to Moonwalking with Jesus

  1. saddlerockdad says:

    You’re encouraging me to think? Why do that when I get all I need from the interwebs? Good writing. Keep it coming.

  2. Heather Stroobosscher says:

    Well said, Kyle! Thanks.

  3. Pingback: Keeping The Faith « It Just Dawned On Me

  4. Very well written and deffiantly thought provoking!

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