I absolutely nailed it. The trail conditions were perfect and the bike was running sweetly. I was so lost in my ponderings over what to name the ride that the climbs disappeared. I flew down the hills occasionally literally, confident of some personal records and maybe even a shuffle in the rankings. I also had a good think through Sundays sermon and was enjoying beautiful Gloucestershire and the benefits of vigorous exercise… And then I got home and realised that Strava had not recorded. And for a brief moment, my perfect ride was tarnished. Because part of me felt like it’s not real if it’s not online.
I remember reading a 2002 essay by Conrad Gempf (one of my LST lecturers) about the potential in the internet age for de-materialism – an increasing valuing of online information, interaction and image over physical relationships and transactions. At the time so little of my life was online that it seemed far-fetched. But now I’m on Strava, and Facebook, and Ebay and Gumtree and You Tube and WordPress and online school-canteen-thumb-print-activated payments.
Conrad’s essay noted that early Christians had to wrestle with popular varieties of Platonism which over-valued the spiritual in comparison with the the physical (leading to the detriment of physical existence either through over-indulgence or uber self-denial). Gnostics, they called themselves because they had the special spiritual inside track (gnosis or knowledge). True Christianity was much more earthy. Jesus “LIVED in Capernaum,” “The word became FLESH and dwelt among us”. So how you live and what you do with your flesh matter. Jesus believed the Old Testament with all it’s eating, drinking, sex, holidays and politics and instructions on how to do them well because God seems to think that the physical counts just as much as the spiritual.
Obviously my online life can be massively beneficial to my real life. Our Facebook-arranged 20 year University re-union being a case in point. My online life does serve to measure my real life in scientific terms (the reality is that I am slower than my son on the road and woefully short of any off-road KOMs). It can advertise my thoughts and causes and help me to access thinking to stretch mine and causes in which to invest. But if I am true to my Christian faith, online life must never take precedence over real life (physical and spiritual). My kids will need to hear this even more than me in years to come. I questioned Conrad’s quirky thoughts in 2002. I think my kids would read them as blatantly obvious fact and would probably suggest that I blogged this to make up for the Strava failure.