1984 vs. Brave New World
In the introduction to Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman contrasts the worries about future technology by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World (1932) and George Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949). Though much has been made about the totalitarian government depicted in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Postman highlights how Orwell and Huxley’s contrasting worries play out in information and importance. While Orwell worried that good information would be hidden by a scary government, Huxley worried good information would be hidden in a pile of insignificance.
Dostoevsky in a 1984 world
While we seem to live in a Brave New World, the Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, whom many consider to be the best novelist of all time, lived in a totalitarian 1984 like world. Because of his beliefs, his books were censored and after a mock execution he was exiled to Siberia.
But instead of destroying him, it turns out that his time in prison might have been the very thing that made transformed him from a brilliant writer to the the one of the most insightful Christian thinkers of all time.
During his exile, the only reading material that he had was a copy of the New Testament and Psalms. Though he was raised in the Orthodox church, he describes this as the time in which he came to know Jesus and experienced conversion. With no access to anything but the most significant literature ever written, he read the Scriptures over and over until it completely saturated him. And it formed his mind to create the highest of art.
Information Deprivation vs. Information Overload
Postman points out two major concerns:
- The kind of information we intake is insignificant.
- The amount of information we intake overshadows what little significant information we do intake.
In other words, if you read a passage of Scripture in the morning, then later consume lots of TV shows, blogs, and advertisements, it doesn’t matter if the content is morally good or morally bad, the sheer volume of information will dilute anything truly great and tend you toward seeking more and more insignificant material.
I have to ask myself: am I really a more intelligent, loving, godly person because of my constant access to the never ending stream of news? I imagine Dostoevsky would have longed to have the remainder of the Old Testament – do I long to be saturated by God’s word as much as I long for new interesting tech news?
How about you, are you satured with the significant or overwhelmed by the meaningless?