catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 13 :: 2009.06.19 — 2009.07.02


Actualizing the virtual

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent the majority of my days in front of my computer fostering virtual relationships in anticipation of fostering face-to-face relationships.  You see, this summer, Rob and I are embarking upon the Eat Well Food Tour, a road trip that will take us around the Midwestern U.S. and southern Ontario in order to foster conversation and action related to food and faith.  It strikes me as a little ironic that preparing for a trip that will be all about face-to-face interaction has required me to have my face buried in a screen for such a significant amount of time.  However, we took a break last Saturday to enjoy a taste of what we hope to experience on the food tour, as we made our way along the southern tip of Lake Michigan on a mini three-stop tour of family and friends combined with good food. 

Our first stop was my parents’ house, where we enjoyed breakfast with my mom and dad on the back porch.  Now, “breakfast” and “back porch” are key words for me when it comes to food and relationships within my family.  My dad’s breakfasts tend to be a Big Deal, often featuring five or six different dishes.  We chatter and catch up and tease while we eat and often end up sitting around the table for a half hour or more after everyone is finished, just enjoying one another’s company.  My parents even built a back porch on their house, affectionately called the “fun room,” to accommodate a growing family around the table in temperate weather.

Next, we visited our friends the Lagerweys and Boerman-Cornells as they attempted to recover from a big graduation party the night before.  Their home is one of the places we’ve experience abundance most tangibly and consistently over the past 12 years and this visit was no exception.  As lunchtime neared, giant bowls and bags and bottles of leftovers appeared seemingly from nowhere-salsa and chips, pasta salad, buns with beef, fresh fruit, soda and four dessert choices (all chocolate, of course).  Swirling around this abundance of food was copious conversation about everything from public transportation to food ministries in the church.

Finally, we made our way to the north side of Chicago where we celebrated the engagement of two friends over Colombian food and Cuban music.  After we finished at the restaurant, we gathered at the organizer’s apartment for homemade ice cream: vanilla, fresh mint, coconut lime ginger, honey black pepper and a zingy Aztec hot chocolate.  How fitting it seemed to honor the promise of a lifelong commitment by taking in good, adventurous flavors that were both delicious and nourishing.

All three of these gatherings, while reveling in the delights of being together in person sharing food, were facilitated ahead of time by technology, specifically networking technology, including e-mail, cell phones and Facebook.

Throughout this issue of catapult on the quality of social networking technology to foster or inhibit healthy relationships, there are abundant references to technology as a tool.  Some of our writers end up on the more positive side of this debate, while others suggest that perhaps leaving online social networking behind in favor of other communication tools, at least for a while, is a healthy practice.  I tend to think of our relationship with technologies like Facebook and cell phones as a spectrum, along which we move according to various seasons of our lives, always seeking what is life-giving in a particular circumstance.  Certainly online social networking has the power to come alongside and enhance many of our relationships, especially across distances great and small.

However, a video chat will never suffice as a substitute for sitting down around a table together.  There is something about being in the presence of a human being — with the potential for physical embrace, the communication of eyes and expressions beyond words — that serves to help us remember the significance of the incarnation.  Thank God Jesus didn’t just “phone it in” when it came to the ultimate symbol of self-sacrifice — that would have been the poorer story, to be sure.

And perhaps that leads to a key question we ought to keep in mind as we attempt to navigate the trends of the twenty-first century.  When a choice is before us, such as to social network or not to social network, how can we choose the better story?  Or rather, how can we engage in either choice in a way that represents faithful improvisation on the themes of the Great Story we hold dear?

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