There is a game called by many different names that is played around the world. Where I grew up we called it “Operator.” The game is simple, but revealing. One person whispers a message to another and the message is passed through the entire group until it reaches the last player, who then announces the message out loud to the entire group. The final message rarely resembles the first, despite the best intentions of those involved.
When I consider human history, part of me wonders if we haven’t been involved in a massive and long-standing game of Operator since the earliest days. Was our original purpose articulated initially but lost through cumulative error over time? In recent times, say during the last 100 years or so, we’ve moved through a period of massive change where the baton of morality was largely passed from those who safeguarded scripture to those who engineered culture. The purpose of life was whispered from the mouth of the former to the ears of the latter and the message was very likely changed in the process.
While I can only speculate as to who whispered into the ears of the churches and various religions of the world in eras previous to their genesis, I have to wonder if the message was also changed at that point, deliberately or accidentally, as is so often the case.
What scares me a bit now is the fact that we have moved away from the deliberate use of culture as a means of conveying morality to a cultural free-for-all, where the voices of reason risk being lost in a busy and overextended world.
We live in a state where underlying meaning and purpose is often lost or at best unclear, yet we continue the outer rituals that previously served as vehicles for their expression and perpetuation. For those religiously inclined, prayer used to be a means of radiant expression, of reaffirming a shared vision with a higher purpose. Today it is primarily used as a platform for articulating wishes and wants, often in the form of demands (e.g. “Show me…,” “Tell me…,” “Give me…”). In a similar fashion, our educational system, which was forged in part to recalibrate the moral compass of the masses in a time where church attendance waned significantly, now finds itself capable as a conveyor of facts and data but increasingly impotent when it comes to fashioning a strong sense of morality.
Is giving everyone a megaphone on the internet the answer? I can’t imagine how. The only thing I’ve seen is that the noise has only gotten louder. Good things happen here and there as a result of the din, such as a repressive regime being overthrown here and there, but if my history is correct, that type of thing happened long before the internet. Am I a Luddite? No. Am I concerned to find a way to do my part to get back to the original message? Yes.
There is no shame in feeling like a voice crying in the wilderness. In fact, if you don’t feel that on occasion you have probably numbed yourself to the questions that you should probably be asking. Why are you here? Why are we here? What are we supposed to be doing together?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…