Life is liturgical. We normally think of liturgy as solely residing in the religious domain and that outside religious life there are no liturgies. But once we understand that a liturgy is a practice that we participate in that forms us, shapes and moulds our dispositions and inclinations it becomes clearer that we are constantly engaged in all sorts of liturgies. Our life, our character, the substance of who we are, is shaped by the practices and habits that we repeatedly do.
Liturgies from a Christian context are practices that embody in concrete terms beliefs about how life in the kingdom of God is – to put it differently liturgies embody beliefs and visions about what constitutes the good life. Their aim is to transform us to be a particular kind of people, people with certain virtues, patterns of thought and habits that allow us to co-operate with God and live in union with him. Liturgies work below the radar of our intellect – and so they aim not so much to change our intellectual ideas but our doings, our habits, which in turn change our character, affections, and loves.
This is why of course we can end up doing things habitually that we only realize much later that they were actually antithetical to the sort of persons we want to be and the sort of life we desire.
The internet, a technological marvel allowing unparalleled connections and exchanging of ideas, is now the most influential and widely practiced modern liturgy. It is a liturgy because embedded in the practices it cultivates is an intellectual ethic of how the human mind should work; and how the mind should work is ofcourse part of a larger vision about how all the parts of human life should be ordered and arranged to obtain and fulfill the aims of life – happiness.
Nicholas Carr in his insightful book The Shallows – What the internet is doing to our brains; argues that distractedness and inattentiveness are the chief virtues that the internet cultivates in us.
Attentiveness is lost in the infinite sea of information and fragmentation, hurriedness in pursuing productivity, access to vast amounts of data and information without the time and capacity to reflect on that information in order to extract from it some wisdom on how to live better, which translates to how to love best.
For that is the chief aim of all knowledge and wisdom – to help us live better by helping us to love better. Yes to love better: the wisest person is the one who loves above all – with all his heart, mind, soul and strength – that which is most worthy of being loved.