Ages of Life

[Original German blog post]

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.1. Cor 13

Daniel 2,31-36 aus der Merian-Bibel
You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Daniel interprets Nebukadnezar’s vision. The colossal statue symbolizes the course of history, starting with a ‘golden age’, the paradise, deteriorating epoch after epoch. Until the messianic event – the world revolution – which stands at the end of this ‘historic materialism’.

.והיית אך שמח Devarim 16,15


Hours, days, or weeks repeating, that is a useful illusion. In reality we live through each moment of our life only once; thereafter it has passed. What we experience as relatively homogenous over certain time spans in our lives, is ourselves. We have the impression of uniformity, because we are one person, indeed more or less the same every day.

Over longer time periods, our person however changes, and in fact not continuously, but at specific points in our life very rapidly, while it appears almost constant over years or decades. It is a not completely arbitrary conclusion, to divide our life into sections: childhood, youth, adulthood, senility – or something similar.

Romano Guardini (1885-1968) has written a remarkable book on the life’s ages, their ethical and pedagogical meaning, Lebensalter, Ihre ethische und pädagogische Bedeutung (as is the original German titel). On some thoughts therein I want to further dwell here.

Every section of age is based on specific needs, faculties, and motivations. The necessity to satisfy these needs, to develop the faculties according to one’s age, and to follow one’s motivations, entails the appropriate ethics -what is good and important for children, is hardly by itself the right thing for adults.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, as Qohelet says. This concept of targeted, progressing life is typical for our Judeo-Christian Weltbild; death is the point, where life is completed, and where every goal has to be reached – in opposite to cyclical systems of rebirth, our occidential life spans an arc.

A central aspect in progressing from one age to the next, are crises, even dramatic discontinuities, through which we (should) live, when we e.g. change from the age of the mature adult into senility; things that went seamlessly as an adult, we have to learn to let go, to give room for others; if we manage to get old in dignity depends not least if we are able to make that step, or if we try to perpetuate our youthfulness, long lost in reality, into eternity, as a fop like Thomas Mann’s protagonist Aschenbach in Death in Venice. These crises constitute how we devide our lives into ages, as mentioned above.

Each of the ages has a correspondent way to comprehend the world. This comprehension corresponds also with a certain way to express ourselves in language. Children experience the world in a sort of mystical way, all the enchanted, that for adults lies at the edge of kitsch, is experienced as real part of the personal world. For children, metaphors are not paraphrasing of reality, but reality itself.

Here we leave Guardini, who mentioned the idea of rhetorical figures just marginally in his context of ages. We move back two hundred fifty years to Naples, where Giambattista Vico had published his philosophical magnum opus Sciencia Nuova, the New Science in 1725.
Vico had been pondering on history for many years, in particular on Greek and Roman antiquity, and he had studied the literature of those times intensively. There he recognized a fact, that went totally unnoticed before: The “high cultures” he investigated, were not homogenous over time, but they appeared to him as a temporal hierarchy, a coming of ages, maturing, and decaying –Corso and Ricorso. Each of these epochs, so Vico deduced, brings specific properties of culture and society to the people living in it, that we could compare with Guardini’s ages of life.

Especially one thing came to Vico’s attention: Every epoch had specific tropes, that shaped its literature and presumably also the whole thinking of its time. From this observation he unfolded an original system. The earliest literature of some culture expresses a mystic way of comprehending the world – everything is incorporated by metaphors. In these times, people belief in gods steering fate directly, until they finally get replaced by heroes. Now it is men, that define destiny, however supernaturally advanced and legendary figures. Metonymy is the figure of speech in the age of the heroes. Finally comes the actually historic epoch, the Polis or republic, with real humans as acting subjects. Legal texts and political speeches now make the most part of literature. Metaphors or figurative meaning hardly have room here. Irony is the trope of the age of the humans. After that decline comes – empire and dictatorship, worshiping heroes again, and at last decay into the mystic epoch of the Völkerwanderung, the early medieval age.

If we compare Vico with Guardini, it is obvious to combine the ages of life with the epochs of history – and thus we get an appropriate rhetoric figure for each phase of our lives, too. Children comprehend the world in play. As in mysticism, everything can be “the normal thing”, e.g. a plank, and still something different, say a spacecraft. Children make no difference between fairytale and non-fiction. Adolescence brings hero worship, exaggeration of role models, the projection, the hyperbole. For adults, everything is achievable, scientific, regular. In their dealing with each others, irony helps adults to demonstrate distance to their own positions, “take it with a pinch of salt”. With dwindling power in older age, growing feelings of anxiety, a desire for security, fixation on solid structures, and the longing for strong leadership in a society, that is increasingly sensed as threatening, are the consequences. As a doter we end unable to differentiate reality from fantasy – senile paranoia, depression, or “mystic wisdom”.

Age of Life Epoch Trope
Childhood mysticism metaphor
Youth heros metonymy
Adulthood humans irony
Seniority Ricorso metonymy
Senility decay metaphor

As mentioned frequently before, we can describe our current history as a sequence of turning points in communication culture. First, the Linguistic Turn makes an end with the dark medieval times, with its allegoric thinking, the childhood of our culture. The Iconic Turn lifts us into the age of global mass communication, with irony, not to say cynicism as the leading figuere. and finally we are living through the next turn, the Memetic Turn, falling back into the pictorial. This history of turns I have elaborated on in its own post: Memetic Turn.

***

A world as inexorable sequence of progresses has underlying something sad. That to say, everybody always dies to early. There is probably no agreeable way to part from life. Goals unmet, things that remain unsolved at the end of life, they even appear tragic. Thus the angel of history has with wide open eyes to see “one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it at his feet”; progress as sequence of tragedies. Instead however to grieve about our certain end, I recommend now, to read Nachman of Breslov, that great mystic, who taught twohundred years ago, in what today is the Ukraine, as chassidic zaddik; his morale rule: “Mitzvah gedolah le’hiyot besimcha tamid” – It is the great commandment to always be happy..

Further readings:
Qohelet – Time and Happiness
Memetic Turn
Walter Benjamin: Über den Begriff der Geschichte IX

>digital<: to finger sth.

[Original German Blog Post]

Arno Schmidt: Zettel’s Traum. The detail shown above read:
(dug from 'dig' & this from
'digital' : to finger sth.

digital (not comparable)
[1] Having to do with digits (fingers or toes); performed with a finger.
[2] Property of representing values as discrete numbers rather than a continuous spectrum.
– digital computer, digital clock
[3] Of or relating to computers or the Computer Age.
(wiktionary.org)

Digitus is Latin for finger or toe. To comprehend the reality means literally to grasp, to catch – the same as in German begreifen – to grasp with your fingers. Of the interesting relation between our hands, the comprehending the world and counting, which form also somehow the base of our digital culture, I was reminded by Arno Schmidt’s bawdy derivation of the word digital.

When Schmidt was composing his first and most voluminous typescript novel “Zettel’s Traum” end of the 1960s, the word digital in German language had exclusively the anatomical meaning, as given under [1] in Wiktionary; I looked this up in several German dictionaries and thesauruses of that time period – nowhere would digital be used in the nowadays predominant way [2] or [3].

In contrary to the English-American sphere. There, digit means a sign for a number after all.
Why do the English count directly with their fingers, while we Germans calculate with the Zahl, from zala, which means a mark, a brand sign? Zahl, Zeichen (sign) and digit, as well as toe and token have the same Indo-European root *deik̑-, but the path of the word into the two languages was different however.
***

A problem of interest to astronomers and theologians likewise, from the late antiquity on, was the determination of Easter in the calenders. The difficulty comes from the seven days of the week, the different lengths of the months and the 365 days of the year not being each other’s multiples. Therefore, the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring varies between March 22nd and April 25th. It was the artistry of the Computus to calculate this date for the future years.

The anglosaxian Benedictine Beda, the Venerable, is the father of our chronology of AD and BC. Like many thinkers following Augustine, Beda assumed that in our world all things would be “ordered in measure and numbers” (Wisdom 11,20 – sed omnia mensura et numero et pondere disposuisti).

To give a calculation for Easter, valid and consistent for the whole world, he had written the henceforth mandatory work on the Computus: De Temporum Ratione, Of the Calculation of the Times.

Right the first chapter deals with “Calculation and Language of the Fingers”. Beda introduces counting and shows, how the denumberable, via counting with the fingers, leads to an alphabet of digits; it becomes digitised. “De Computo vel loquela digitorum” – Computing with Digits.

Even though many developments of mechanical calculation from Schickard to Leibnitz – and finally Zuse – took place in Germany, it were Charles Babbage and Ada Byron, who put a Digit Counting Apparatus in the mill of their Analytical Engine. Since then, the word digital appears more and more often in context with calculating machines in England and the US. Since the 1930s (and up to today), digital is used to name the coding of signals by discrete values and numbers in opposite to analogue.
***

The digital world – counted with your fingers, abstract, decomposed into data computed under logical rules. In opposite to that is apparently the reality, comprehendalbe in an analogue way.
There: Plato – here: Aristotele … etc. etc.

Qohelet: Time and Happiness

[Original German Blog Post]

Turn! Turn! Turn!
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

What is the essence of our life? It is the moment that we live to see. In it we find our expectations of the future as well as our memories of what has passed. Thus our life flows moment after moment through our consciousness. Everything that we experience has its moment in time – and by nature our life span is limited:
“Live is just too short, to mess about with bad things.” is one basic idea of this Slow-Media-Blog.

There is a book in the bible that that deals in general and at the same time in a practical way with this essence and the meaning of the limited life time: Qohelet (in Hebrew קֹהֶלֶת‎, chairman, thus Ecclesiastes in Greek, Preacher in the King James Version and Teacher in the New International Version). Qohelet is among the most interesting contemplations on the essence of time – as the season, as limit to our facilities and particularly on the paradox of the steady flow, that creates the illusion of progressing, of causes and effects, that emerges from the sequence of the events in our imagination. From these conditions of time – limitation, steady flow, pretended progress – Qohelet develops his ethics and is set next to the other time-philosophers of his time – Heraclitus and Parmenides. In our context, we look especially to the question of good life with the right time.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Eccl 3,1). And this says that also the joys and the beautiful things of life have their very hour that will not come again, when it has passed – and it’s a pity, for we shall never have enough of these (The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Eccl 1,8):

Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry; (Eccl 8,15). Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. (Eccl 9,7-10)

***

.הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים אָמַר קֹהֶלֶת, הֲבֵל הֲבָלִים הַכֹּל הָבֶל
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. (Pred 1,2)

Our efforts may not really change the world – but very well we ourselves get changed by our labour. Whoso removeth stones shall be hurt therewith; and he that cleaveth wood shall be endangered thereby. (Eccl 10,9). So our pursuit becomes not futile – it changes merily the meaning of our actions in relation to the results. The quest for completion, for the final result as a goal, is meaningless; no item, also no intangible item like scientific knowledge or the creation of a work of art will redeem us, as long as we think, “If we had just achieved this or that, then we made it!”. Despite this bourgeois hope, life does not consist of fulfilment but of action, of labour and toil, of eating and drinking, of loosing and keeping, and so on. Only as long as we live, we can live to see: For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. (Eccl 9,4) So happiness does not mean fulfillment, it is not the purpose of life but being happy is a means to a good life: Simcha, שִׂמְחָה‎, the happy-being is in this concept of jewish philosophy – like with the Hassidic teacher Rabbi Nachman of Breslov the precondition of morally good life: “Mitzvah gedolah le’hiyot besimcha tamid” – it is the great commandment to always be happy.

And this is the core proposition of Qohelet: That our life is too short, to not seek for the beauty in it, for in just the consciousness thereof we are different from the animals: For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast; (Eccl 3, 19) And how dieth the wise man ? as the fool. (Eccl 2,16)
This however requires peace and quiet:

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty. (Eccl 5,2)

Metaphysics, Speculation and Science

[Original German blog post]

The scientist looks through the objective – does this render his research objective?

The occasion for this post is a rather persistently held debate on Twitter, I would like to broaden my own points a bit. These touche only a part of this by and large amusing discussion that spun a much wider arc.

The basic motive of this conversation were the “Two Cultures”, how this complex of sciences vs. humanities is called since the famous text by Ch. P. Snow. I want to pin on two aspects, that I find worth telling in the context of Slow Media: the question of the value of metaphysics for the sciences. The second: my hope, that the publicity of sciences that has been changed so much by the Web and platforms like Wikipedia and Blogs with their comments, a “Third Culture” becomes possible.

This Twitter-discussion’s protagonists assumed the according roles in Snow’s play of the two cultures quickly; me – despite my own career – on the side of the humanities. Finally all would just dissolve in consensus, would not an issue have been risen, that immediately made obvious the deep divide between the two cultures: first, the question if the scepticism of the scientific method is to be used on their own foundations, and second – and this came as a complete surprise for me – by a quote that I twittered to illustrate the first point.

Ehlers: ‘ … But in the end the decision [to accept a new theory] is made using criteria on which both sides agree: the representatives of the older and the younger generations.’
Stichweh: ‘Is that always the case? I don’t know a single opponent of Darwin
who became convinced. They actually did die out, some time in the nineteenth century.’

From Reinhard Breuer, Michael Springer: The truth in science.
Interview with Jürgen Ehlers und Rudolf Stichweh. GENERAL RELATIVITY AND GRAVITATION 41, Nr 9, 2159-2167 (Originally published as Breuer, R., Springer, M. “Die Wahrheit in der Wissenschaft”, Spektrum der
Wissenschaft 7/2001)

Christian Huygens, “the most elegant mathematician of his time”, one of the most prominent figures of the enlightenment, had said in the context of Galileo’s defence: “The world is my country, science my religion.” I found this appropriate for our conversation. After that, the der consensus was not to be restored until the end of the discussion. Even a harsh tone came into the rhetoric and – I have sensed it this way, taking the counter positioning – the “scientist’s party” fell in figueres of “authenticity” (Eigentlichkeit), the images becoming almost geradezu martial. The snappishness by which the equalization of science with religion, deduced from the quote, was fought against, surprised me even more, when I was blamed, to insult the scientific side. In return I found myself as faithful catholic suddenly put on one level with creationists and other esoteric cranks.

First law of thermodynamics: What you gain in force you loose in distance. Even though it is tempting to transfer the physical images onto human society, like Francis Bacon had called for, things are not that simple …

After school I had no doubt to choose a scientific education. I studied mathematics and computer sciences. Like many of my fellows I was caught by the joy of data visualisation: it was the time of the “Fractal Geometry of Nature” by Mandelbrot and the invention of the graphic processor. Because of my knowledge in electronic data analysis I got a job in the Institute for Human Ethology in the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft at Andechs.

What was special with the team at this institute was the extraordinary, interdisciplinary mixture: zoologists (mainly ornithologists and primate experts) there were physicians, psychologists, linguists and even art historians. This was due to the research’s objective: human behaviour – from nonverbal communication (where I had landed) to languages, proxemics (behavior in a group) up to the whole repertoire of culture, art, architecture and especially music – the search was for what unifies men, what was universally valid, no matter which culture in the world had been watched, and what would be specific only for some people, evolved through adaptation to different environmental conditions. From the ethological method of comparative behavioural research I have been benefiting up to today – many research projects had been realised by Christiane Tramitz and me since then – although our severance from the Max-Planck-Institute did take place in a rather ungentle way.

In those days, some tropes borrowed from postmodernism and already sunken down to undergraduate seminars had been quite en vogue. Had the humanities’ mainstream in the preceding decade attacked the biologic research of men just as being part of bourgeois defence of power, now every reductionism, characterising the classic scientific method, was dispraised as construct. The arguments of those times had basically been quite harmless and hardly positioned to really disturb the research work – thus different from the class-struggle-rhetoric of the earlier years. As meanwhile graduated statistician I was anyway hardly to be frightened by postmodernism, had I not chosen a discipline dealing with getting and affirming knowledge out of data, afflicted by random or even better: derived from incomplete models.

Some colleagues however where effected in a hard way by this criticism, for this aimed on a pecular aspect of many human biological projects: from their alleged scientific hypothesis they derived ethical norms. Just the sociobiology, examining the behaviour of man under his conspecifics under biologic aspects is extremely prone to take its reductionism (“group”, “clan”, “people”, “culture” etc.) for real objects. I don’t want to go into the problems of postmodern anthropology and ethnology here. Another topic I had – so to say – to learn the hard way: these norms were not to be criticised, how I was told, because they had been obtained by scientific method. To make this clearer: it was a moral framework that could be called Darwinist in a broader sense. Darwinism – this may be stressed here – is not evolutionary thought, but a social teaching deviated from it. In this, a behaviour is morally judged good or bad, to what extent it helps men – individual or in a kin group – to give their genes to a next generation as numerous as possible; brought to its end this is the “nature, the cruel queen” in her realm – I think I do not have to get more explicit; so much for my career in biology

There is no escape from this logic, if you stay in this biological positivism; this is what is called “Dialectic of Enlightenment” since World War II. But their is a chance, not to slide into barbarism with enlightenment, namely by making a step outside.


Euclid’s Elements. By changing some of the axioms, that are pretended evident to our assumption, one does not get to antinomies but to new worlds: the non-euclikic geometry

Meta means behind, beyond, and metaphysics has been another space for thought, into which we may step back to look on the physis, the nature and think ponder on what comes after having watched nature.

Stichweh: ‘If I compare science with art or religion, from outside, then science is
different in the sense that it claims that its statements are true.. […] Niklas Luhmann said that truth is science in a state of exhaustion.’
From Reinhard Breuer, Michael Springer: The truth in science.
Interview with Jürgen Ehlers und Rudolf Stichweh. GENERAL RELATIVITY AND GRAVITATION 41, Nr 9, 2159-2167 (Originally published as Breuer, R., Springer, M. “Die Wahrheit in der Wissenschaft”, Spektrum der
Wissenschaft 7/2001)

Metaphysics, this I have learned yesterday once again, is not rated high. But the question for meaning, for the essence of the unearthed scientific insight cannot be answered within the system itself. The “remaining risk” of civilian use of nuclear energy that its advocates happyly take for all men (no matter if these agree), the question if genetic engineering should be promoted, if climate change is a necessary evil of our civilisation or a crime – all are not scientific questions. Doubts with research were likly placated by politicians. “Discussion without blinkers” was the mantra of the so called Ethikrat in Germany – in plain text: stay away with your boring moral from our science!

“Limitation on cut-out, sharply isolated objects […], by the desire for exactnes aspiring to create laboratory-like conditions – refuses not just temporaryly but in principle the dealing with the totality of society. This enails that the assertions of social research often carry the character of the fruitless, peripheral […]. Unmistakably is there the danger of becominging petitfogging with stuff […]. In the effort to keep to watertight data and by discrediting every question for essence as metaphysics, it is imminent for social research to remain limited to the inessential in the name of the undoubtably correct. Often enough their objects are dictated by their methods, …” Theodor W. Adorno, “Empirische Sozialforschung” in Gesammelte Schriften, 9.2

Speculation is a second metaphysical field closely tied to sciences. Speculation does not mean to get nailed down by the normative power of the presumingly factical. By speculating we look into a “mirror and view puzzling contours”. Just by getting up from immediate experience of the collected data and abstractly think farther, a shift in paradigm can be achieved.

“No difference should exist between an animal totem, the dreams of a visonary and the absolute idea. On the way to modern science men abandon meaning. They replace the idea with the formula, cause by rule and probability.” Theodor W. Adorno, “Dialektik der Aufklärung”.

By denying an external theory discussion in the sciences, science itself becomes dogmatic. I would not go as far as Adorno by accusing the sciences to have become myths in new clothes. But by contemptibly placing metaphysics, speculations and ethic founded on faith on the same level of irrationality as esoteric and idolatry in opposition to science, science wastes the chance to reflect on itself, to keep a critical distance.
***

But indeed there is a lot going on regarding the Two Cultures. On platforms like Wikipedia exponents of both blocks confront each other regularly and have to find consensus, if there effort should not lead to endless edit-wars. The arguments sit well documented and traceable on the discussion page. There is a considerable number of blogging researchers (both sciences and humanities). In the comments the positions can be negotiated in transparent way, like it had never been possible in the past. Opinions not shared can be criticised here; everyone can contribute and cross tie via links. This participating in scientific publicity was exclusively reserved to peer-review in the old days.

The good thing of this publicity: incomprehensible and arcane terminology has bad chances to stand the discussion; bad times to curl up, make your own bed and lie in it. An open system that is by its mere way of publication – available for everyone – invites to participate. I believe that thus a “Third Culture” will evolve – like Snow had hoped in 1959.


The quadrature of the circle: take a step back, out from the flat ring of ratios into the lofty field of real numbers (what metaphor!), the radius is put in relation to circumference easily.

On Lent

[Original German Blog Post]
P. Breughel d. Ä.:Carnival und Fastenzeit

“Restore to me the joy.” (Psalm 51,12)

In the mass of Ash Wednesday this psalm formulates the beseeching for the beginning lent.

Despite an ongoing trend to fasting cures it is not common to speak about fasting and particularly repentance in connection with joy. It is easy to catch the unindulgent attitude and the tendency to suppressing drive – which are often alleged to Christendom – being concentrated here. Fasting remains caught in the closet of the spiritual or esoteric.

The current talking about media fasting accordingly provokes vivid discussion, both sides mutually implying to argument religiously and not objectively – and not by accident. No one else then Benedict XVI – always on the spot to upsetting his opponents, in the Angelus of Feb 17th 2008 recommended abstinence from media to support contemplation and catharsis:

“It may be useful for a while to refrain from the abundance and flooding of voices and images in our every-day’s life” (in German)

***
Fasting and diet are terms that have been appearing in context with Slow Media at various locations, when it came to the desire for a cure from a sense of excessive demand or the uncertainty of how far ones own life is depending from media and the Internet in particular. In her Blog, Jana Herwig titles “Twitter-fasting: I’ll do it (but not for Schirrmacher and Kluge)”:

“However I want sometimes to be without this [social media sense] again, not to always take the smart phone to check what’s up elsewhere while I am in the underground or during other moments of low action level; not to give way to the urge to formulate thoughts that are just articulating; not to follow and not to know, how others might react, but to keep it for myself alone.”

Also Luca Hammer, estimating himself as beeing author of up to 800 tweets a month refers to this post:

“Several hours a day, that I spend to reed and write tweets. High frequency. Always on my mind. What would happen, if I used this time for blogging?

And even Ibrahim Evsan – hardly suspicious of being an Internet sceptic – prescribes himself an Internet-diet from time to time: “When I get to heavy, I have to consume less and move more; when If my time for the real life gets ‘lost’ in the digital world I have to take care to optimise my social media consumption.

***
Repentance, μετάνοια, how the term is in the Greek text of the Gospels, means literally re-thinking and not only admission of guilt and thus avoiding punishment which resonates with the Latin term poenitentia. For becoming able to rethink, Benito Cocchi, Archbishop of Modena demands to voluntarily set aside SMS, Internet and television for one week and to cultivate understanding instead of just communicating: “Per tornare a comunicare, invece di komunikare”.

“This is because in a pluralistic society whatever promises novelty and sensation is presented indiscriminately. Certainly, there are also valuable programmes of information and entertainment. But people must be taught mature judgement if they are to choose wisely.”

Benedikt XVI. gave his German Bishops a talking during their Ad-Limina-Visitation (but without providing a pretext for refusing the Internet, for: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Petr 3,15)).

Fasting, says Thomas Aquinas may “… bridle the lusts of the flesh so the mind may arise more freely to the contemplation of heavenly things.”

By stepping back the view may be opened on the consequences that our communication devices impose on the world. And Benito Cocchi has explicitly in mind the material consequences, for a huge part of our electronic equipment is produced by means of the most disgusting exploitation – which is way too rarely brought to attention – and to which everyone of us should kindly take his part of responsibility. Apart from all CSR-rhetoric of Green Computing we have to face that we are still far from sustainability with our media consumption!

***
When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.(Matt 6,16-17)

Fasting should not be a burden, as well as media fasting; it may restore us the joy! It may give a reason to reflect on ones own use of communication media, to consider critically the contents and – with the necessary distance – to picture ones own position in the social net – what might fortunately be not so pivotal:

For dust you are and to dust you will return. (Gen 3,19)