Roasting Coffee, Technology and the Process

God could have done things in a very different way than he did. He could have collapsed time, not had such a long period between the law/Old Testament and the coming of Jesus. Jesus could have come right after Adam and Eve sinned and saved lots of trouble, right? But he didn’t, and John Dyer, at don’ helped me to see what roasting coffee has to do with God.

John Dyer tells the story of how he “acquired” a taste for coffee, eventually started making his own coffee at home, then even began to roast it on his own. Then he relates that to something called the Device Paradigm, which is the way technological devices are perceived and consumed in society.

As technological development progresses, we take basic life processes like getting food, making heat, and communicating, and we compress those processes down into what Borgmann calls a “device.” A device is a technology that makes the end result of a process available at the press of a button. For example, the process of gathering wood, starting a fire, and tending to it is compressed down into a box which makes heat come out whenever we need it. The process of killing and skinning an animal, planting and harvesting vegetables, preparing and cooking a meal is compressed into a drive through window. The process of going to a concert is compressed into an iPod, and so on.
This is all great except that a sneaky thing begins to happen as devices get smaller and more complex – we can no longer see the processes they perform. Over time, since the processes are hidden from us we stop valuing those processes. Eventually, our values shift to where we only appreciate the end result, and we almost shudder at the thought of going back to the process.
Borgmann argues that to experience the fullness of life we sometimes need to restore what he calls “focal things and practices” – those things that take time and work, but offer a richness not available from a device. For him, the process itself gives meaning and significance to the consummation.

Creating the perfect playlist on an iPod is fun, but earbuds cannot compare to being at a concert with its unpredictability and spontaneity. Communion at a high church with its preparation and waiting feels more important than the prepacked variety at many efficient evangelical churches. Mom’s apple pie is good not just because of the pie itself, but because of the person from whom it comes.
In relationships, God designed the most intimate human physical encounter to come through a process of courtship, commitment, care, and finally consummation. Marital consummation is wonderful not only because of the encounter itself, but also because of the journey to get there. When this encounter is made available at the click of a mouse, it becomes inhuman and destructive.

So I think you start to get the idea. When we expect the end result immediately, skip the process and forget what it takes to get to the end result, we lose something of the enjoyment that is found in doing an activity, like making a cup of coffee, from beginning to end.

Getting back to whether God could have done things in a different way, Dyer thinks we can learn something about God and what he desires to teach us through the slowness of his return.

Perhaps the answer is that for God, the process of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration is as significant as the end itself. Of all beings, God himself could certainly have the push-button like experience of instantaneously taking us to the eschaton. But it appears that moving through time and space and doing work of the process of redemption is itself valuable to God. The final union of Christ and his bride is made significant because of the work Christ did leading up to the consummation of all things.

God gets more glory, and we get more joy, through participating in the process of what He is wanting to accomplish. Think about that the next time the power goes out, or you go camping, your computer is on the fritz and you have to use pencil and paper. There is a joy in the journey as well as in the end result.


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